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Guests: Sen. Klobuchar & Rep. Weiner

By Rachel Maddow Show, Rachel Maddow Show - January 25, 2011

Guests: Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Doug Heye, Anthony Weiner

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR:  A little less two hours ago, President Obama wrapped up his second official State of the Union Address.  It was an address that looked different from State of the Union speeches of the modern era.  It looked different because of the way it was received.  A number of Democrats and Republicans chose to forego the tradition of segregating themselves by party.  They instead chose to sit together in the House chamber. 

Surely, some did still sit by party, but others sat organized by state.  The entire Colorado delegation, for instance, sitting together tonight.  Some other members of Congress grouped themselves by hobby.  The bipartisan Congressional Women"�s Softball Team said they would sit together tonight.  No, I am not kidding.  And no, before you speculate, I never played softball. 

Even before President Obama entered the chamber tonight, he had a bit of the thunder of his speech stolen.  A leaked draft of the entire text appeared on the website of "The National Journal"� hours before the speech was delivered.  This may not be unprecedented, but I don"�t know of any other instance in which the entire speech was advanced leaked. 

Mr. Obama was seen whispering to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on his way to the podium.  He whispered to her, "I don"�t need to deliver it now.  Everybody saw it."� 

The mood of tonight"�s speech was somewhat subdued right from the start.  That may have been because the president started by remarking upon the tragic events of the last few weeks.  The Arizona congressional delegation left this seat open tonight in honor of their colleague, Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.  She, of course, is recovering tonight in a Houston hospital, after being shot in an apparent assassination attempt two weeks ago. 

As her colleagues honored her absence tonight by wearing special black and white ribbons, the congresswoman herself watched the speech from her hospital bed.  Look at this photo.  She watched from her hospital bed in Houston, alongside her husband, Astronaut Mark Kelly. 

President Obama"�s speech tonight lasted for more than an hour.  It was interrupted by applause 79 different times, by our poor, under paid applause counter.  It was a speech that was dominated by economic issues and by assertions that the differences between the parties are less important than the nation"�s competitive challenges from abroad. 

The president evoking a new Sputnik moment.  Sputnik, of course, the Soviet satellite that shocked America into creating our own U.S. space program, a program that within a decade had Americans walking on the Moon. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

           

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  A half century ago when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik, we had no idea how we would beat them to the Moon.  The science wasn"�t even there yet.  NASA didn"�t exist. 

But after investing in better research and education, we didn"�t just surpass the Soviets.  We unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.  This is our generation"�s Sputnik moment. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  The president talking not just about the need to reduce unemployment, the need for more jobs, but the president talking in great, great detail about his vision of where jobs come from.  I said earlier"”and I still think it"�s true"”that this speech was essentially a prayer to the free market, to the nation building in our own nation that comes from invention and from entrepreneurship. 

Lots of presidents have done this in the past.  Tonight, the president linked it to the need to invest, to actually spend some government money in order to goose that sort of invention and entrepreneurship.  Mr. Obama tonight shouted out Google and Facebook as American economic inheritors of the legacy of Edison and the Wright Brothers. 

He stumped explicitly for infrastructure investment, and he did so at length.  He framed the issue in terms of the business environment and American industry competing in the world.  The president specifically shouting out expanded Internet access, roads, railways, high speed rail. 

President Obama coupled some hard truths about America falling behind in education"”as many as a quarter of our students not getting a high school degree"”he coupled some of those rather brutal truths with what ended up being the first big applause line of the night.  Watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  To every young person listening tonight who is contemplating their career choice, if you want to make a difference in the life of our nation, if you want to make a difference in the life of a child, become a teacher.  Your country needs you. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  What appeared to be the first partisan standing ovation divide tonight was not over the mention about being a teacher.  That received a round and well rounded round of applause from both Democrats and Republicans. 

The partisan divide standing ovation came over the president"�s mention of health reform.  The president said he is eager to work with anyone to improve health reform legislation, but he said scrapping health reform all together is out of the question.  Watch. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  If you have ideas about how to improve this law by making care better or more affordable, I am eager to work with you.  What I"�m not willing to do is go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a preexisting condition. 

Instead of re-fighting the battles of the last two years, let"�s fix what needs fixing and let"�s move forward. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MADDOW:  You can hear the mixed response there.  That was one of the very few moments of stark partisan divide in tonight"�s entire address.  Here"�s another example I think that is sort of emblematic of the way the president kind of threaded the partisan needle tonight.  Republicans sat mostly silent tonight as Mr. Obama hailed the passage of a repeal of Don"�t Ask Don"�t Tell.

But then he immediately pivoted"”immediately, within the same sentence, pivoted to a related issue of ROTC on college campuses, a point that is not calculated to resonate with the president"�s base, like the Don"�t Ask Don"�t Tell mention did.  IT was calculated to broaden appeal of the Don"�t Ask Don"�t Tell repeal. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA:  Our troops come from every corner of this country.  They are black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American.  They are Christian and Hindu, Jewish and Muslim.  And yes, we know that some of them are gay.  Starting this year, no American will be forbidden from serving the country they love because of who they love. 

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