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State of the Union address -- will it be Obama's recovery act? Bob McDonnell's response, more

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From the speech: The president talks about his administration's record on cutting taxes, taking $30 billion repaid by big financial firms and turning it over to community banks, breaking ground on a high-speed rail initiative, a spending freeze in 2011, and national security.

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Dana Milbank
Washington Post Columnist
Thursday, January 28, 2010; 9:30 AM

Post columnist Dana Milbank discusses his take on President Obama's State of the Union address.

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Dana Milbank:

Good morning, chatters.

The State of the Union this morning is. . . drowsy.

It was a little noted fact that the length of the president's speech made things quite difficult for us newspaper hacks. My first deadline was 8 pm (of little us for a speech that starts at 9, so I wrote a second column about Geithner), 9:45 pm (of only slightly more use for a speech that goes to 10:20), and finally 11:15.

Anyway, I am waking up to a world of bipartisan bonhomie and good feelings everywhere. Or was that just a dream?

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Fairfax, Virginia: Did Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito have a Joe Wilson moment in President Obama's State of the Union address last evening? The Post reported today that he appeared to be mouthing the words "not true" in response to the President's comments in opposition to the recent Supreme Court ruling striking down two precedents by allowing corporations to use their profits to contribute to political candidates. Even corporations based in outlaw terrorist nations are now able to contribute to American political campaigns, as a result of the ruling. This apparent display of judicial intemperance was caught on a You Tube video. Have the constitutional walls of separation of powers come tumbling down whereby the Supreme Court has reduced itself to just another political body in the three branches of the Government?

washingtonpost.com: Justice Alito dissents

Dana Milbank:

Yes, I saw this from the gallery and mentioned it in today's column. It wasn't quite a full Wilson because he didn't say anything out loud and Obama probably didn't notice it. Also Alito is something of a human bobblehead and pivots his head all the time for no apparent reason.

Apparently Alito has a point. PolitiFact says Obama was exaggerating: http://politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2010/jan/27/barack-obama/obama-says-supreme-court-ruling-allows-foreign-com/.

Still it seemed most inappropriate for one of the Justices to react in such a way. They usually sit in silence, or in the case of Justice Ginsburg, semi-consciousness.

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Atlanta, GA: I'm glad to hear about all those yawning legislators. It gives me a glimmer of hope that they might actually have been working hard during the day and tired themselves out. That's always a relief.

washingtonpost.com: Polite to the point of listlessness

Dana Milbank:

Either that, or drinking a lot at dinner.

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Alexandria: Dana... love your chats and I'm sure this one will be terrific. But I hope people also will go back and read associate editor Robert Kaiser's chat transcript from last night. I just sent a link to it to about a million friends. I appreciate both the grown-up analysis and grown-up posts, which unfortunately are all too rare these days.

washingtonpost.com: State of the Union: Analysis

Dana Milbank:

Kaiser is definitely a grownup. He even has monogrammed shirts. I am not a grownup and do not have monogrammed shirts, but I will do my best.

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Sterling, VA: My comments and question are in the form of a baseball analogy, and I hope that your response will continue the analogy. I think that our star pitcher, "Lefty" Obama, has loaded the bases. He's pitching wildly. His team is losing. His starting lineup is more hapless than the 1962 New York Mets. He's gotten no Republican batters out. He continues to throw bean-balls at the Republicans, and they continue to score runs. He threw a spit-ball directly at the eyes of the Supreme Court justices. The fans are booing him. Many "Independent" fans are leaving the stadium. Therefore, my question is: Do you think the Democrats should ask Hillary Clinton should to start warming up in the bullpen for 2012?

Dana Milbank:

I balk at this analogy. But let us perpetuate the notion that Biden is going to be sent down to AAA because of numerous fielding errors.

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Blue Rock, MT: I thought Bob McDonnell hit one out of the park last night. Will he be able to challenge president Brown in 2012 or is that just wishful thinking on my part?

Dana Milbank: Why is everybody thinking about baseball this morning?

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Justice Sam "Not True" Alito replaces Rep Joe "You Lie" Wilson: So bad behavior has moved up the ladder and Justice Alito has replaced Joe Wilson as this year's "You Lie" shout-out.

To be more precise, "Not True" was this year's motto. But I find it interesting that the ultraconsevative, alternate reality has now migrated to the Supremes, where Alito has joined with four other extremely conservative Republicans to redefine reality.

Of course there Supreme Court still has moderate Republicans (two of them!) a breed that has disappeared from Congress.

Any chance that Alito might get some serious censure?

Dana Milbank: I'd be very surprised if he did. But it's only the latest awkwardness involving the Supremes at the State of the Union. I did a whole column after one state of the union on their spontaneous deliberations after each line about whether to stand and applaud.

They are seated in the front row, right next to the Joint Chiefs. (In this case they had two rows, because there were six of them -- a majority!) But they feel they can't applaud even ordinary lines such as "the state of our union is strong." So they look like grouches.

I'm guessing we see a very small minority of the court next year.

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Baltimore: You had a very interesting column about Robert Gibbs last week. I'm sure today he will be out proclaiming another wondrous performance by his boss. But considering his daily performance in front of the press, does Gibbs have any credibility left? He reminds me of Baghdad Bob, the buffoon who swore there was no attack when the U.S. forces were over-running the city. Is Washington Bob the worst ever at that job?

washingtonpost.com: Gibbs's wisecrack answers come in waves

Dana Milbank:

He's no Baghdad Bob, but he may be too much of a Beltway Bob, reasoning that the way to success on the podium is to offer Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions. My sources say he has toned things down in recent days, which is a good thing.

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Washington, D.C.: Was Hilary there?

Dana Milbank: No, she was busy moving into the Naval Observatory to replace Biden in a coup while he was otherwise occupied. (Actually she's on overseas travel, but don't let that get in the way of our rumormongering.)

I wondered if they would have Geithner skip the speech last night to be the designated survivor in case of a catastrophe. It's about the only scenario in which he stays on the job.

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Albany, New York: At least three times, by my count, the President referenced the previous administration's legacy. In the context of not "running for the hills," does this indicate an increased willingness on the Obama Administration's part to circumvent the need for a super majority (Budget Reconciliation), since President Bush and the Republican Congress did it for their (now viewed as partisan) Tax Cuts? It would seem the playing field is actually more favorable now that the 60 votes are gone (i.e. it no longer requires negotiating with so many potential votes that consider themselves #60)- and the Democrats face being whacked in November without actually accomplishing anything.

Dana Milbank:

I think it does increase that likelihood, though probably not in the way Alan Grayson wants. The congressman was outside the Hart building yesterday demanding that a public option be included in a health-care bill as part of the 50-vote reconciliation process.

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Washington, DC: The posters in this chat seem to think Alito is the one who was wrong for mouthing, not saying something, but Obama can go ahead and attack the Supreme Court while Dems cheer/intimidate them? Hello people, Obama just broke a precedent that has been around since the founding of our country...separation of powers! Can you imagine is Bush stood up there and degraded the Supreme Court for a ruling? The left would be going nuts about him interfering. The first two posters seem to think it is wrong for the Supreme Court to worry when the President directly threatens them? Do people understand what Obama has done?

Dana Milbank:

Maybe it's because my own State of the Union is drowsy, but I don't see this one as a big deal on either side. Yes, slightly cheeky of Obama to criticize the Court, but certainly not unconstitutional. And yes, slightly cheeky of Alito to "mouth" off. But this was nothing compared to the September address when people were booing and hissing and waving signs and heckling.

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Rochester, NY: Listless is right!

Where is the fire that we so often heard from the previous president? Where are the memorable lines "axis of evil", "Mission Accomplished", "git r done"? Can we attribute the lack of powerful rhetoric here to the fact that your brilliant colleague Michael Gerson isn't writing the speeches anymore?

Dana Milbank:

A word I heard in the gallery last night for the speech was "Clintonian," and I think that's right. Clintonian in a bad way (its excessive length) and Clintonian in a good way (smart politics).

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Clifton, Va.: Dana cites politicalfact.com to suggest Obama was exaggerating which was what the headline of that article suggested.

But then at the end it continues:

"The scenario involving foreign-owned U.S. subsidiaries hinges on a quirk in the law that had seemed to be of little consequence, but which now may loom large.

The federal law cited above -- 2 U.S.C. 441e(b)(3) -- defines foreign companies as those incorporated under U.S. law or that have their headquarters here. It is silent on the treatment of companies that are incorporated and headquartered in the United States but are owned by foreigners."

Headline writers should be obligated to read the entire article before misinforming.

washingtonpost.com: Why Alito shook his head: Obama exaggerates impact of Supreme Court ruling on foreign companies

Dana Milbank:

I believe this is the first time "2 U.S.C. 441e(b)(3)" has appeared in a chat I have done.

For the record -- and many people are awaiting my constitutional judgment on this -- I think it's a lousy decision from a governing standpoint because it will mean a huge flood of DOMESTIC corporate money into politics, and there's already way too much of that.

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Were there two "Survivors"?: I heard there was a second cabinet member not in attendance last night in addition to Sec. Clinton. Who was it?

Dana Milbank: Shaun Donovan, HUD. I'm picturing a scene after the apocalypse on Capitol Hill, and Donovan shows up at some military base to say he is now president of the United States, and the guard at the gate says, "who the hell are you?"

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Washington, DC: Shaun Donovan, HUD Secretary, was the cabinet official who remained in an undisclosed location last night. If someone had successfully decapited our government, then Donovan would have been responsible for launching a nuclear counter-attack against the Soviet Union. Seriously. What other reason must we be in position to respond quickly? Of course, what would the Pentagon do if a HUD Secretary tried to veto a missile launch?

Dana Milbank:

He would attack the Russians with housing vouchers. Very messy.

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Washington DC: Who was the supposed foreign dignitary shouting and what was up?

Dana Milbank:

He didn't say anything other than "Mr. President." I can't tell if anybody has identified him yet, but we do have a photo of him being talked to by a friendly security agent. Word is they are familiar with him and this behavior is not entirely unexpected. Maybe the French ambassador?

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Palm Harbor, Fla.: Good Morning Dana; When the president states that he is going to freeze discretionary spending, exactly what programs may be facing the axe? Thank you for your insightful commentaries.

Dana Milbank: The Supreme Court budget.

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Rockville, MD: Nothing to say about the SOTU but I did want to say I loved the video of you and the PETA protestors at 17th and K. You and your Big Mac and then the "save the newspaper" protest. Genius. Pure genius.

washingtonpost.com: Save the newspapers, don't use the Internet

Dana Milbank: Very kind of you. But admit it, you liked the ladies in the lettuce bikinis in 20-degree weather.

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Knoxville, TN: President O'Bama presented his same program demanding the Congress do it or else the world will go into a tailspin. He asks for suggestions to help him, but has shown he only wants agreeable suggestions that pushes his plans.

The President talks about "Washington" being evil. Does he not realize he is Washington. What is he talking about? Does he mean the House or the Senate? Does he mean those in his Executive Branch who makes up the rules? Perhaps he just means those who don't agree with him, like many Republicans, Libertarians, conservatives, lobbyists, reporters who question the judgments of the President, his staff, and the leaders of the present House and Senate.

Dana Milbank: That's actually the nub of the problem for the election this year: Obama and Dems need to run against Washington while they are Washington. Reagan did this well but he had Democrats in control of Congress. It would be easier to sell this point if they handed control of Congress to the Republicans, but that kind of defeats the purpose.

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Purcellville, VA: Whoever was directing the pool cameras did a great job last night. John McCain was caught saying "blame it on Bush" to Lindsay Graham, and then when Graham said "eh?" McCain repeated it.

Also, Eric Cantor looked like a deer caught in the headlights when Obama made the first joke about thinking his words would get applause from the GOP side.

Dana Milbank:

That's great stuff. I try to ask folks who watched it on TV what I've missed, because you see an entirely different perspective from the gallery. For example, I was behind McCain so I couldn't have seen that excellent exchange.

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Battlestar Galactica!: Re. the scenario with Shaun Donovan, HUD Secretary, being the last man standing and therefore the Prez--after the apocalypse--we fans of the show know that we got the Sec. of Education Laura Roslin as the President and that turned out just fine! So no worries....

Dana Milbank:

I am feeling better already. The State of the Union is calm and tranquil, and in fact I'm going to go back to bed.

Thanks for chatting.

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Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


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