I’m late to this, mostly because the speech has been available for a few hours. No surprises.
The only Middle East reference in the prepared speech: Iran, and its increased isolation, thanks to sanctions and the administration’s outreach to the international community. We’ll see if he embellishes.
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) is among the first to greet President Obama as he enters the chamber — a tradition that dates back to his first year in Congress, in 1989. This year’s theme is "prom dates" with members of the opposite party — a nod to the civility in the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), whom Obama acknowledged. Engel’s "date" is rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio.) Engel makes Obama laugh. Schmidt makes a request.
Another "prom date:" Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) and Rep, Pete King (R-N.Y.). They’re both ruffling through the printed speech. Weiner, who is Jewish, is married to a Muslim. King, who now chairs the House Homeland Security committee, wants to find out if Muslims are under our beds. Maybe they can work something out between them.
Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the first ever Jewish majority leader, is paired with fellow Virginian Bobby Scott (D-Va.) He wanted a date with rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.),, the former Speaker and now the minority leader, but she prefers the company of Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), a friend apparently dating back to her Baltimore roots.
Jewish domestic policy notes:
–Clean energy (this is par for the course for presidents of both parties);
–Another go at the DREAM Act, which failed last year, and which would allow a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants who came here as children;
–He’ll compromise on health care, but a bottom line is preserving guaranteed care for people with pre-existing conditions.
The black and white ribbons honor the victims of the Tucson shooting. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), whose district borders Giffords, sits next to her empty seat..
Obama says he’ll veto bills that have earmarks. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) stands up to applaud..
I was being parochial — there’s plenty on the Middle East, beyond areas that directly affect Israel.
"The Iraq war is coming to an end."
"American Muslims are a part of our American family.".
That gets a standing ovation. No pan of Weiner and King.
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) is sitting alongside his brother, Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), as always.
Notes ratification of START arms reduction treaty with russia, but no reference to what ther administration had said was its importance in isolating Iran.
Nods to referendum in south Sudan and the Jasmine uprising in Tunisia. No Egypt though.
No Israel-Palestine either.
Troops are "Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim, and yes we know that some of them are gay. Starting this year, no American will be barred from serving the country they love, because of who they love." Thanks, by the way, to outgoing Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.)
Campuses should not bar ROTC, Obama says.
I will NOT dignify the smoked salmon commentary on Twitter by commenting on it. Oops.
Now he’s on his way out and signing programs. "Eliot needs one too!" says Jean Schmidt. "It’s bipartisan!"
CNN cuts away to photo of Mark Kelly holding wife Giffords’ hand and watching SOTU in the Houston rehab center.
Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) begins his reply with a nod to Giffords — "What we can do is assure them that the nation is praying for them; that, in the words of the Psalmist, the Lord heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds; and that over time grace will replace grief." Then it’s all about spending.and deficits — Ryan chairs the House Budget Committee.