IAFC All-Stars Break Down the 2011 State of the Union

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's a Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on The Brian Lehrer Show, It's A Free Country bloggers Jami Floyd, Karol Markowicz, Justin Krebs, and Solomon Kleinsmith joined our listeners in reacting to last night's State of the Union address.

It's a Free Country bloggers and Brian Lehrer Show callers alike took Obama to task for the things he didn't say in his State of the Union address. While the general reception was positive, sticking points included the president's somewhat ambiguous use of the word "investment" and unanswered questions about the national debt. For deeper analysis, be sure to read all of our bloggers' takes on the speech in the linked articles below, give the speech a grade in our thoroughly unscientific poll, and leave your comments at the bottom if you've got something to say!

On Tone

Instead of reaching for the hearts and minds of America...and reminding America, look, we offered you change, given you hope, the economy is improving, here are examples how and why, and we are responsible, our policies have brought you to this point, stick with the plan. Instead, he reached to the chamber and Congress for compromise...as a result, even though he's a great orator, the speech fell flat.

—Jami Floyd. Read more»»

He did a great job giving a mixed message to an audience of bipartisan seating. I'm really curious as Senators and Congress go back to their sides of the aisle whether he continues to drive down the middle, or whether there's one half he starts speaking to more.

—Justin Krebs. Read more»»

I loved the patriotic parts. I think he sounded a lot like Reagan in 1984, but unfortunately for him and all of us, it's 1980. His speech didn't hit the right notes for a time of financial crisis. So while it'd be great to move forward and build these amazing things and win the future, the fact is we're still at an extremely high unemployment rate, and his ideas in the speech last night, I didn't feel they added anything to lowering that.

—Karol Markowicz. Read more»»

I'm a pretty conservative Republican, and I thought he did very well. I think for the first time he looked comfortable being the President of the United States. I think he moved a little to the right, and the salmon part just had me laughing.

—Brian, calling from Glen Cove

On "Investment"

We're in a recession despite the fact that Obama thinks he beat it back. We don't have the money for this sort of thing. He should look to Chris Christie and the way that he's plainly stating, "We don't have the money. It'd be great if we did, we just don't."

—Karol Markowicz. Read more»»

I'm a college teacher and while I usually don't give my own opinions on politics in class, a student asked me in class on Monday how we should grade the State of the Union address, what to look for, and I said, "See how many times he said the word 'investment.'" It's a code word for tax and spend. The more he uses it, the more he'll show he doesn't understand the mess he got us into...It turns out Obama used the word "investment" 13 times, and 11 times before he even used the word "debt," which is the problem he brought upon our people...That gives him a solid F.

—Jack, calling from Staten Island

The total, I was thrilled. He touched on many things I'd looked forward to hearing, but as usual, he is not reaching the general public that depends on Fox for their information. He didn't explain investment. He could have explained it in terms of the average family's long-term planning, why it's better to buy a house than rent all your life, why it's better to get more education, why small businesses and farmers need to invest to survive.

—Marsha, calling from Poughkeepsie

I gave him an A-. I think he did great job, I think he was presidential, and I've been watching these things for a pretty long time. This is a tough time for the country and we need someone to pull it all together. One of my reactions is that he's doing this in a time where important topics are painted in pure black and white, such as the notion that there's no such thing as government investment, which is purely wrong.

—Hugh, calling from New Rochelle

On What Was Missing

I think he got a little bogged down in the Sputnik analogy. Yes, President Eisenhower declared Sputnik a crisis in 1957, but I think what Obama needed to do was reach for that Kennedy moment in Houston in 1962, that transcendental moment where he said, "race to the moon," and we did. This is the beginning of the 2012 campaign, and I think we need more soaring rhetoric.

—Jami Floyd. Read more»»

I don't think a lot of people are going to understand some of the aspects of this speech, but you can't touch on so many things and get into all the details, so I'm not going to knock him for that. I would like it if he tried to put together some sort of guiding metaphor that would explain most things to people...It'd be nice if he did that, but it still doesn't explain how he's going to pay for these things. He can't in one sentence say we need to live within our means, then say we need to borrow $100 billion dollars to do these things.

—Solomon Kleinsmith

The fact that he talked about public transportation in a national agenda is something you don't often hear from our elected officials. The discussion of information infrastructure, all of that is exciting. But there was no discussion of the foreclosure crisis, no discussion of how to hold the corrupt actors on Wall Street accountable for the financial crisis, no discussion of gun control...Maybe we can't get everything on our laundry list in, but it did feel like there were a couple places he chose very carefully not to dig in on a more divisive issue, to find a more central path.

—Justin Krebs. Read more»»

I give him a B+. I'm 45, I've been listening to politics since I was 16, and they all say the same thing about high speed trains, investing, and it never really comes to fruition. (Rep. Paul) Ryan came on afterward and spoke about liberty, and it seems to me that Republicans are really referring to economic liberty. Whenever they're in power, you get things like Terry Schiavo and these things that appeal to the far right in terms of, as far as I see it, taking away liberty: draconian drug laws, not repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Those are anti-liberty, and I would have liked to hear the president address his idea of liberty versus the other idea of liberty.

—Frank, calling from West Babylon

He gave a good speech, and I'm a conservative. He tried to reach out and tell the country what his vision was, but the reality is no matter what he does or the Republican Congress does, it's not going to really affect our future. What's really going to affect our future is that we're going to be facing a bond crisis within the next five years. That will bring everyone to the table, and at that point the cuts in Medicare, Social Security, and entitlements will have to take place. We will not be able to raise the funds. It's coming. They're just working around the edges, not solving the problem.

—Frank, calling from Chester

There was nothing until the very end of his speech, other than being competitive, there was nothing about foreign relations...I found the speech a little too flag-waving, a little too "we're the greatest." I would like to see us recognize that there's a rest of the world out there and I'm not just talking about the wars...There was nothing about foreign policy other than the wars and terrorism.

—Susan, calling from Manhattan

The Final Grade?

One caller gave him an A, another gave him an F, and I imagine those are the grades they would have given even before the speech. You wonder how much a single speech on a single night can sway the voter.

—Jami Floyd. Read more»»

How did you feel about President Obama's speech? Tell us in the comments section.