State of the Union and Taco Bell stories converge as Americans wonder, 'Where's the beef?' 

Now that I've had a bit of time to sleep on it and clear my head, some random thoughts about last night's big speech:

--Their egregious pomp and length have long made State of the Union Speeches a chore. Last night's longer than average speech did no one any favors, least of all the President.

--The speech in a word? Underwhelming. This was supposed to mark his big turn to the center and while the whole thing wasn't terrible, it was just flat. Since he's been President, Obama has a history of needing to rise to the occasion and just not coming through (see underwear bomber, BP oil spill, Ft. Hood shooting etc).

--When the President spoke about "corporate profits" and other supposedly positive economic indicators being up early in the speech, he didn't really talk about how severe the unemployment problem is. As someone with a number of close family members looking for jobs (and I hardly think I am unique in that respect) it was frankly angering that he did not acknowledge this problem more severely.

--The President actually cracked a joke about gloved federal TSA agents grabbing your genitals. It might have been funny if the person cracking the joke wasn't the President and could, you know, DO SOMETHING TO STOP THIS UNECESSARY AFFRONT TO OUR LIBERTY AND HUMAN DIGNITY.

--I hope the President's rhetoric about streamlining the tax code and closing loopholes is sincere. It's really a seperate issue than the level of taxation, and it's an issue where Republicans and Democrats could probably find lots of things to agree on.

--The foreign policy section of the speech seemed sort of half-hearted. It was like they were an hour into the speech and decided, "Well, I guess we're obligated to say something about Iraq and Afghanistan."

--"Investment" was repeatedly touched on -- it's really a shibboleth for "spending." Here's actual line from the AP twitter feed about Obama's speech: "@AP FACT CHECK: A tricky juggling act as Obama urges more spending and a freeze on spending." That says it all. 

--The way Obama talks about education drives me crazy. We need to work smarter, not harder on education. We've been hiring teachers like crazy over the past decades and spending has gone though the roof. Education's getting worse, not better as a result. Telling young people to go into teaching is a nice sentiment, but it's empty rhetoric that won't actually address education problems.

--Paul Ryan's response was fantastic. Maybe he's not as polished as Obama and he spoke a hair fast, but his speech was exceedingly well-written. When he addressed the Giffords shooting with the quoting of the Psalm and the line about "grace replacing grief" was a better bit of rhetoric than anything in Obama's more-than-an-hour speech. Also, Ryan spoke directly and clearly about the gravity of our current problems than Obama. It was a big improvement in tone over the opening act.

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Mark Hemingway

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