Policy Wonks and Advocates Critique Obama’s State of the Union

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As the world tuned in to the President’s final State of the Union address, policy wonks and advocates parsed Obama’s words to see what he did (or did not) say about their specific cause. As usual, it provided a great opportunity for Obama’s friends to commit to supporting him as his presidency winds down, and gave his foes plenty to critique. Here’s a roundup of what they had to say:

Gene Karpinski, President of the League of Conservation Voters

Thanks to the president’s leadership, 2015 was a banner year for climate and conservation, including major victories on the Clean Power Plan, the historic international Paris climate agreement, the extension of critical clean energy tax credits, and the rejection of the dirty and dangerous Keystone XL pipeline. Tonight’s powerful speech makes clear that the president intends to build on all of this progress in his final year in office, and we will be there with him at every step of the way.

Danielle Pletka, Senior Vice President of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute

The President made an enormous mistake in failing to acknowledge the failings of American foreign policy in his tenure. Russia is allying with our enemies, China is on the march, Cuba has arrested more dissidents, and Iran is now holding American sailors in a deliberate slap at the president on the day of the State of the Union. ISIS and al Qaeda have only grown, and more than a quarter of a million Syrians are dead. There is no sin in failure; the sin is in failing to admit mistakes so that they can be corrected. The American people are now less safe, less secure, than at any time since 9/10/2001.

Neera Tanden, President of the Center for American Progress

The President focused on the economic challenge families are facing: stagnant wages for many workers as costs rise, including education, health care, and retirement. He offered an optimistic vision of how we tackle these challenges while articulating progressive values to ensure basic economic fairness.

Liz Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer of AFL-CIO

The President’s speech provided a powerful reminder of historic accomplishments and gives working people hope for a better life. Of course, his legacy will not only be defined by the last seven years but also by the final year ahead, and the path he chooses to pave for our future. We will continue to stand with him on policies that help working families and strengthen our resolve against the corporate trade deals so his legacy leads to a fair economy and better life for everyone.

Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council

Marriage, religious liberty, human sexuality, the church, race relations, and our core beliefs have all been frayed by the words and deeds of the Obama administration. As Christians, if we don’t have the freedom to live according to our faith — whether it’s in the home, whether it’s in the workplace, or in school — then we really can’t be free.

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials

The State of the Union needs to be more than just political theater. Latinos and all Americans continue to wait for words to be turned into action on the key issues affecting their day-to-day lives. We need progress on policies that will improve the schools our students attend, create more job opportunities, bring the immigrant community out of the shadows and ensure the right to vote is accessible for all.

Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund

For the first time in history, every American can marry the person they love. And Americans are steps closer to receiving lifesaving, essential health care no matter their zip code, income, country of origin or gender identity. Despite historic achievements, there is still more work to be done. We still have a long way to go toward ensuring every American has equitable access to reproductive health care.

David McIntosh, President of the Club for Growth

Here’s the Obama legacy that was ignored tonight: A near-doubling of the national debt, a mountain of new federal rules and regulations piled atop the private sector, skyrocketing healthcare costs, and a busting of even the most nominal caps on federal spending. None of these improve the future for American taxpayers.

Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

The symbolic empty chair was also a deeply moving gesture to our millions of supporters, so many of whom have experienced unimaginable loss. We also know, however, that there is so much more work to do to address an epidemic that claims the lives of 90 Americans every single day. Much of that work falls on the shoulders of the Congress he addressed tonight and we wish the President would have made that more clear by calling on Congress to put the safety of the American public ahead of the interests of the corporate gun lobby.

Sherrilyn Ifill, President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

I was extremely pleased that the President spoke to the importance of protecting the right to vote, and especially of making it easier to vote. I do wish he had spoken about the need to amend the Voting Rights Act, as the strength of that law is essential to both the protection of voting rights and voter participation. And, while the President spoke powerfully about the need to reject anti-Muslim prejudice, he did not address sufficiently the critical and ongoing issue of racial bias–particularly police violence against unarmed African Americans which has gripped this nation. Nevertheless, we were encouraged by the President’s bold vision for our country and his call for unity, determination, rational discourse, and hope.

Alicia Garza, co-founder of Black Lives Matter

I’m deeply disappointed that President Obama did not present or discuss a transformative plan to address the needs of black people — especially black cisgender and transgender women. He has long retreated from addressing tragedies rooted racism and transphobia and tonight was no exception. I can only hope his actions speak louder than his words.

Presidents speak so much about safety in terms of the foreign policy, but fail to candidly speak about safety re: domestic policy. #SOTU

— deray (@deray) January 13, 2016

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