By Brad Friedman on 1/24/2012, 11:59pm PT  

I think the expression captured on the face of House Speaker John Boehner in the photo above, taken during tonight's State of the Union Speech, is actually more accurately representative than the one of President Obama. Boehner appeared simply stultified at times during the presentation, and for very good reason...

I'm not usually a fan of these addresses, even though Obama almost always delivers them well, but tonight he laid down a 2012 gauntlet from top to bottom in what even the folks on Fox "News" afterward were forced to concede was one helluva speech.

The mortician-like Charles Krautheimer begrudgingly admitted the President had "hit the right tone for a State of the Union" and the rage-filled former newsman Brit Hume said that Obama had "made a reasonable case for himself." Believe it or not, that's huge praise from that corner.

In my opinion, after months of Republicans creating an entirely phony case against an imaginary President (about whom a real case could easily be made, even as the entirety of the GOP has either declined or failed to do so), it was nice to see just a bit of a Return to Reality, if only for just over an hour or so tonight. Obama both rebutted and prebutted the arguments that have been made against him throughout the endless GOP campaign to date, and those that are clearly set to be made against him between now and November. He dismantled each and every one of them, piece by piece.

Will it work? That remains to be seen, but I'm fairly certain I noticed a whole bunch of thought bubbles floating above the heads of most of the Republicans in the chamber which, if I was able to read them correctly, seemed to say "Fuck. We're gonna lose this year."

All the while the President stayed positive, offering precious little for Republicans to use against him, and Lord knows they were looking for anything. In truth, it was so positive and forward looking and populist, it all sounded more like an Inauguration Address than a State of the Union speech.

The visit to Fact Land was but a brief respite, as we returned quickly thereafter to Fantasy Island when Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels stepped in for the impossible Republican response to note absurdities such as "the President's constant disparagement of people in business"; "a perfectly safe pipeline that would employ tens of thousands"; "No feature of the Obama Presidency has been sadder than its constant efforts to divide us"; and then this:

In word and deed, the President and his allies tell us that we just cannot handle ourselves in this complex, perilous world without their benevolent protection. Left to ourselves, we might pick the wrong health insurance, the wrong mortgage, the wrong school for our kids; why, unless they stop us, we might pick the wrong light bulb!

Yes, the man who many Republicans, to this day, are still begging to get into the 2012 Presidential race, actually said those things. I saw it with my own eyes.

Meanwhile, back at the actual State of the Union, of particularly disgraceful note was the absence of Supreme Court Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito, which I described during my live coverage on Twitter as "lame, pathetic, offensive, partisan and unAmerican." I'll stick by that description.

And while it's always painful watching the "loyal opposition", no matter which party they may be, put on a game face and make cordial at these affairs, there were points this evening when it struck me as simply remarkable that folks like Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell couldn't even bring themselves to fake it.

For example, near the top of the speech, Obama noted: "Today, General Motors is back on top as the world’s number one automaker. Chrysler has grown faster in the U.S. than any major car company. Ford is investing billions in U.S. plants and factories. And together, the entire industry added nearly 160,000 jobs." Even for that rousing list of undeniable American successes (admittedly among many more failures over the past three years) Boehner couldn't bring himself to even offer a pretend, polite golf clap.

Similarly, he couldn't be moved to even act as if he approved of these words from the President: "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." Bah, humbug. Fairness?! Who needs it?!

I thought it was a rather stunning spectacle all night long, to be frank --- even by today's embarrassing standards. But that's what we've now come to. It's gonna be an ugly year...But you knew that already.

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Beyond that, you are welcome to scroll through my Twitter commentary and snarkage for all of the live play-by-play if you like. I've gotta run tonight as tomorrow looks to be a big day. But I wanted to offer a few observations so you all could offer your own thoughts in return, which may well, as is often the case, be very different than mine. Feel free to have at me.

One reason tomorrow is a big day is that I'm looking forward to finally interviewing GOP Presidential candidate and former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer on my KPFK/Pacifica Radio show from 3-4p PT. Another is that I just heard from Mike Malloy who's having some technical problems at his studio and may need me to jump in and cover for him on the show tomorrow night from 6-9p PT. So my work is cut out for me and I need to run. So I'll leave the rest of the post-game analysis to you all...