The White House promised something special — something “non traditional” — in advance of President Obama’s seventh and final State of the Union address, but anyone who was hoping for an hour of Lin-Manuel Miranda lyrics was left wanting on Tuesday night.
The speech was “non-traditional” only in the sense that instead of listing his legislative priorities and the policies he would use to achieve them, Obama delivered a pointed rebuttal to the arguments Republican presidential candidates have deployed against him.
In between the standard State of the Union tropes — “the worker on the assembly line who clocked extra shifts to keep his company open,” “the soldier who gives almost everything to save his brothers, the nurse who tends to him ’til he can run a marathon” — Obama managed to weave in some sick burns for his naysayers, both on the campaign trail and in Congress.
Here are the 11 fights the president picked in the single hour he addressed Congress:
1. When he took a jab at Trump:
“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.”
2. When he delivered a one-two punch to climate deniers:
“Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there. We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget.”
“…Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You’ll be pretty lonely, because you’ll be debating our military, most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people, almost the entire scientific community, and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.”
3. When he took a second swing at Trump:
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.
4. When he prodded Chris Christie:
“As we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands.”
5. When he ad-libbed a threat against the so-called Islamic State:
We don’t need to build them up to show that we’re serious, nor do we need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is representative of one of the world’s largest religions. We just need to call them what they are — killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed. We have to take ’em out.”
6. When he dared Congress to authorize military force against ISIL:
“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. Take. A. Vote.”
7. When he took a jab at Ted Cruz:
“[E]ven without ISIL, instability will continue for decades in many parts of the world — in the Middle East, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in parts of Central America, Africa and Asia. Some of these places may become safe havens for new terrorist networks; others will fall victim to ethnic conflict, or famine, feeding the next wave of refugees. The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet bomb civilians. That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage.”
8. When he knocked Trump a third time:
“[W]e need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn’t a matter of political correctness. It’s a matter of understanding what makes us strong… When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid bullied, that doesn’t make us safer. That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country.”
9. When he challenged Congress to lift the embargo on Cuba:
“You want to consolidate our leadership and credibility in the hemisphere? Recognize that the Cold War is over. Lift the embargo.”
10. When he taunted Congress over the Trans Pacific Partnership:
“You want to show our strength in this century? Approve this agreement. Give us the tools to enforce it.”
11. When he bashed the Koch Brothers:
“We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families and hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections — and if our existing approach to campaign finance can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution.”