To appear more human, Obama tried to be funny and folksy, but his wise cracks and “million dollar smile” came across more as creepy sarcasm. This act also created a problem of tone. People want to see that he cares about them and their problems , that he “feels their pain” the way Bill Clinton did so well. He failed in this regard. He always does. It’s not his strong suit. It was more like a pep rally atmosphere. And he was fully of excuses, on banks for instance, rather than careful explanations and defenses of his policies. This made him look simultaneously cocky and weak.
The speech was screwy on many levels: he failed to convey empathy effectively, the speech lacked a unifying theme, his “rah rah” engagement with the partisan Democrats will likely alienate independents, the facts hurt him on unemployment and the debt, and his response to the same was logically contradictory, i.e., freeze spending but spend new money on flying cars and solar and what-not. I also think his doubling down on healthcare will scare seniors, even if Medicare reform long-term makes good policy sense. Finally, his jobs bill sounds kind of unbelievable; if a $1T stimulus couldn’t sort things out, what will $30B do. It hurts these programs’ popularity that none of us really knows anyone helped by the stimulus. He named a few random companies, but I literally have never seen a project or met anyone who was employed because of that boondoggle.
Like most state of the union speeches, it won’t move the dial much, but since the dial is pointed so negative for him, that makes this speech a big failure.