SOTU first thoughts: Obama's gun message far stronger than his economic message

Jeff Greenfield
Yahoo! News

By Jeff Greenfield

I’ll have a judicious, nuanced, modulated take on President Obama’s speech tomorrow. For now, a brief first read.

If the point of the speech was to put Obama front and center on the economy, it did not work—primarily because the non-economic part of the speech, specifically the section on guns, was so much more powerful on the purely emotional level. It is simply impossible to put promises of federal-state task forces and public private partnerships on the same level as the evocation of innocent lives lost to the plague of guns.

There’s no doubt that gun rights advocates will accuse the president of “politicizing” these deaths. But the whole point of the argument is that too many people are dead because the political system has been too fearful of the political might of the gun lobby to do much of anything. In this sense, Obama’s appeal that the victims “deserve a vote” was an attempt to answer to the power of that lobby.

Will that argument move many votes in Congress? I have no idea. Will it dominate what people will remember about the speech? Without question. By contrast, what will viewers take away from the speech about just what the President means to do about the still shaky economy?

Right now, I don’t have an answer to that question.