The U.S. House chamber was filled to the brim Tuesday night as President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union Address at the Capitol. In the nearly one hour, 5,452-word speech, Obama touched on several issues including the economy, national security and politics in general.
Obama began the speech with a look at the upcoming campaign.
“Tonight marks the eighth year I’ve come here to report on the State of the Union. And for this final one, I’m going to try to make it shorter. I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa,” Obama said.
The speech was also a boiler plate political speech in which Obama sought to draw contrasts between himself and the GOP.
“America has been through big changes before – wars and depression, the influx of immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, and movements to expand civil rights. Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change, promising to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control. And each time, we overcame those fears,” Obama said. “We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to the ‘dogmas of the quiet past.’ Instead we thought anew, and acted anew. We made change work for us, always extending America’s promise outward, to the next frontier, to more and more people. And because we did – because we saw opportunity where others saw only peril – we emerged stronger and better than before.”
Obama also spoke about the economy and national security.
“I told you earlier all the talk of America’s economic decline is political hot air. Well, so is all the rhetoric you hear about our enemies getting stronger and America getting weaker. The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. It’s not even close. We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined. Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world,” Obama said.
Continuing, the President said: “If this Congress is serious about winning this war, and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, you should finally authorize the use of military force against ISIL. Take a vote. But the American people should know that with or without Congressional action, ISIL will learn the same lessons as terrorists before them. If you doubt America’s commitment – or mine – to see that justice is done, ask Osama bin Laden. Ask the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, who was taken out last year, or the perpetrator of the Benghazi attacks, who sits in a prison cell. When you come after Americans, we go after you. It may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limit.”
In the address, Obama also called for an ambitious foreign policy.
“American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice between ignoring the rest of the world – except when we kill terrorists; or occupying and rebuilding whatever society is unraveling. Leadership means a wise application of military power, and rallying the world behind causes that are right. It means seeing our foreign assistance as part of our national security, not charity. When we lead nearly 200 nations to the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change – that helps vulnerable countries, but it also protects our children,” Obama said.
ARKANSAS DELEGATION RESPONSE
In a statement, U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., said he believes the speech was an example of overreach.
“The President’s policies of the last seven years have increased regulations, left Americans with skyrocketing health insurance premiums and led to shrinking middle class. The executive actions that skirt Congress have failed the American people who expect Congress and the White House to create solutions. Our country is facing many domestic and international challenges and Americans are losing trust in the government’s actions. Instead of concentrating on his legacy, the President should be focused on how he will work with Congress to create a future of hope and promise by reigning in federal spending, improving economic security for hardworking families and fighting global terrorism.”
U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., said in a statement that the President offered more of the same.
“President Obama’s final State of the Union address was a simply a highlight reel of the bad policies and executive overreach of the last seven years. Underneath the rhetoric and feel-good anecdotes the facts tell the real story: the United States is in a worse place today than it was seven years ago. Our economy is stagnant—nearly 16 million Americans are unemployed, underemployed, or have stopped looking for a job, and our hourly wage growth has been at a historic low for the past 6 years. And the President’s namesake accomplishment, Obamacare, is only adding to the problem. Arkansas families have seen their health insurance premiums sky rocket and businesses across the country are struggling to meet the regulatory burden of this massive law,” Cotton said.
U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, said the speech provided a key message from the Obama administration.
“President Obama’s message is simple – he gives up,” Westerman said. “As evidenced by his recent executive orders on gun control, the president has stopped trying to work with Congress to pass meaningful legislation in a bi-partisan manner. He refuses to listen to the will of the people. The president gave us a laundry list of ways he’s bypassed the people’s House to create laws with no debate and no compromise. As Congress continues to find ways to protect our citizens, improve economic opportunity, balance the budget, and improve access to quality healthcare, President Obama vows to obstruct all of it. Despite President Obama’s efforts to ignore the country’s problems, this year Congress will offer solutions to defeat radical Islamic terrorism, get our national debt under control, and fight poverty.”
In a statement late Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, said the Obama record has been lacking on several fronts.
“Tonight the President imagined his administration’s future for Americans, and evidently missing was the link between that future and the present reality. You can’t use the same old veto threats and executive actions to try to create your own future for America that largely ignores our present circumstances, including our rising national debt and threats to our security from abroad. In 2016, I’m going to be focusing my attention on the here and now, laying the groundwork for our nation’s secure future, and helping to pass actionable legislation through the people’s Congress that frees Americans to build a better future for themselves,” Crawford, who serves on the House Agriculture and Transportation committees, said.
U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers, also criticized the President’s speech.
“After seven years of State of the Union addresses filled with broken promises and empty words, Americans are disheartened. We ask ourselves if we’re better off now than we were seven years ago. We ask if we are safer now than we were seven years ago. And the truth of the matter is that we are not,” Womack said in a statement. “President Obama’s priorities are not America’s priorities, and throughout his time in office, he has done nothing to solve for deficits and debt that plague America. In fact, he’s added $8.3 trillion to our nation’s debt. President Obama has also failed to give this nation a clear plan through which to combat ISIL and has failed to take seriously the risk that the gravest threat to our way of life poses in the Middle East and in our backyard.”
From U.S. Rep. French Hill, R-Little Rock:
“People throughout Arkansas and the rest of the country are tired of the president’s my-way-or-the-highway approach to governing, and tonight’s speech offered no assurances that he is ready to ditch that mentality. Tonight, he once again showed his habit of coming to Congress to pontificate and not to join in or support our bipartisan efforts on major issues facing this Nation. We need a president who wants to work with Congress to improve our economy and put forth a plan to defeat enemies like ISIS.
“I also am troubled that the president didn’t address today’s news that ten American sailors have been arrested by the Iranian government. Iran continues to demonstrate that it can’t be trusted, even in the wake of the massive sanctions relief the president’s administration provided them through last year’s nuclear deal. Iran is not our friend, and this president must use his last year in office to push back against their aggressive actions towards America and its allies.”