Obama’s best digs at Republicans — and Democrats — in final State of the Union Address

President Obama called for upgrading the country’s politics in his final State of the Union Address Tuesday night in a speech that might be best remembered for its condemnation of Donald Trump-style intolerance. But he also got in some sharp digs at positions considered mainstream among Republicans — and, increasingly liberated from the imperatives of partisan politics, he threw some jabs at Democrats and their common dogmas, too. Here were two of such that were thoroughly deserved.

In past State of the Union addresses, Obama hardly mentioned climate change. This time, he reveled in mocking Republicans’ untenable position(s) on the issue.

“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,” he said.

“Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it. You will 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.”

All that is true, except, perhaps, for the lonely part. There are still plenty of Republicans who encourage climate head-in-the-sand-ism, and many more who profess some sort of climate agnosticism that results in the same policy preferences.

He also attacked the hysterical opposition to the Trans Pacific Partnership, which is rampant among Democrats. The trade deal, he pointed out, will “open markets and protect workers and the environment and advance American leadership in Asia. It cuts 18,000 taxes on products made in America, which will then supports more good jobs here in America. With TPP, China does not set the rules in that region, we do. We want to show our strength in this century? Approve this agreement. Give us the tools to enforce it.”

Given that Democrats made clear that they still oppose the president’s trade agenda in the run-up to Tuesday’s speech, he could have used even sharper language. The reasons opponents offer for attacking the TPP are either overblown or reality-denying, reflecting an unconstructive populism that diminishes the national debate.

Each party — or, at least, just enough members of each party — will have to shift their positions on these issues over the next several years.

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