Best Line in the State of the Union:

"The greatest blow to confidence in our economy last year didn’t come from events beyond our control. It came from a debate in Washington over whether the United States would pay its bills or not. Who benefited from that fiasco?"


Most Potentially Historic Line in the State of the Union:

"The greatest blow to confidence in our economy last year didn’t come from events beyond our control. It came from a debate in Washington over whether the United States would pay its bills or not. Who benefited from that fiasco?"

Word Most Conspicuously Absent in the State of the Union:

"Union." Not as in "federal government," but as in "organization dedicated to protecting the rights of workers." The only reference to unions was when Obama mentioned Master Lock's "unionized" plant in Milwaukee as an example of jobs that can be brought home from overseas. It was entirely incidental.

I mention this because Obama early in his speech talked about how his grandparents, after World War II, 

shared the optimism of a nation that had triumphed over a depression and fascism. They understood they were part of something larger; that they were contributing to a story of success that every American had a chance to share –the basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.
The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important.

This is an elliptical reference to the fact that for three decades after the war productivity increases were passed through to workers. That didn't happen because bosses were nicer then. It happened because labor unions were powerful then. It doesn't happen anymore, and a big part of the reason why is that private-sector labor unions aren't powerful anymore.

Most Annoying State of the Union Line for Eric Cantor:

"As I told the Speaker this summer, I’m prepared to make more reforms that rein in the long term costs of Medicare and Medicaid, and strengthen Social Security, [i.e., cut entitlement spending,] so long as those programs remain a guarantee of security for seniors. But in return, we need to change our tax code so that people like me, and an awful lot of Members of Congress, pay our fair share of taxes [i.e., raise taxes on upper incomes]."

Timothy Noah is a senior editor at The New Republic.