President Barack Obama was back in classic form in his final State of the Union address Tuesday, reminding viewers of the passionate optimist they got to know during his 2008 presidential campaign.
Appearing collected and confident, the President kept his speech short, called for tolerance, and told Americans not to give in to the idea that our troubles are insurmountable.
Republicans were not feeling it. In the GOP response, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley said Obama was an eloquent speaker, but that the country is threatened by terrorism and illegal immigration, and the economy remains “weak.”
“Many Americans are still feeling the squeeze of an economy too weak to raise income levels,” Haley said. “We’re feeling a crushing national debt, a health care plan that has made insurance less affordable and doctors less available, and chaotic unrest in many of our cities.”
Despite Haley’s assessment, the President assured the nation that the economy is headed in the right direction and he took a swipe at Donald Trump and the rest of the GOP presidential field for fomenting fear — though he didn’t call any of them out by name.
Here are the 5 biggest takeaways from President Obama’s final State of the Union Address:
1. Obama’s war on hyperbole.
Obama said essentially: Yes, we have economic and national security issues, but don’t overstate them: We’re better off than we were when I took office. He said overstating ISIS’s strength helps their recruiting efforts.
2. He opened with a joke.
“For this final one, I’m going to try to make it a little shorter,” he said. “I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa. I’ve been there. I’ll be shaking hands afterwards if you want some tips.” The routine was in his prepared remarks.
3. Putting Biden on the spot
Vice President Joe Biden has his work cut out — Obama has put him in charge of efforts to wipe out cancer. There was huge applause for the line: “For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the family we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all.” So there is something Democrats and Republicans can unite against.
4. He took digs at Trump and the rest of GOP field
Obama noted that America is still the biggest military power in the world. “It’s not even close,” he said three times. It was a dig at Republicans, and Donald Trump in particular, who Obama suggested have built up ISIS. He also explicitly called out Muslim-bashing, an apparent response to Trump’s call for an end to letting Muslims into the U.S.
5. Don’t forget who killed Osama
“If you doubt America’s commitment — or mine — to see that justice is done, ask Osama bin Laden,” Obama said.