President Barack Obama’s last State of the Union address drew a mixed review from Long Island’s members of Congress — criticized by Republicans for being ineffective and disappointing but hailed by Democrats for reminding Americans what makes the country great.
The hourlong address in the House chamber was short on policy details but long on the president’s vision for less rancorous politics in Washington and for a more tolerant, inclusive path to security and prosperity.
“The president reminded the American people of the qualities that make our nation great — our grit and ingenuity, our strength through diversity, and our leadership on the world’s stage,” said Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington).
But Israel also took a shot at Republicans, after attending his last major presidential address before he retires this year.
“As we saw tonight, Democrats are out of their seats cheering for the future, while Republicans are sitting on their hands in fear of their base,” Israel said.
In a statement, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Obama “gave a speech aimed not at the next six months or the next election but at the next generation. By appealing to the ‘better angels of our nature,’ the President stood in sharp contrast to the nastiness of the Republican Presidential Primary.”
Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford) said he was disappointed in the speech, noting that it failed to mention that the threat of terrorism is at its highest since 9/11, that Iran has violated United Nations restrictions and that North Korea is building a nuclear bomb.
And he said Obama didn’t mention Israel once.
“It was more of the same and a lot of self-righteousness,” King said, filled with “phony arguments” and “straw men.”
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) said in an email, “As for the president’s speech, his secret special mix of Kool-Aid and deception may work for the liberal base, but that State of the Union address is not how to lead and truly unify. One thing I know for certain is that . . . [the 1st District’s] message is definitely not this President’s.”
But Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) agreed with Obama’s optimism, and hoped that both parties can work together to end gun violence and create paid leave for families.
Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) called the speech “excellent,” saying it “was lofty but grounded in the reality of the challenges we face in the 21st century.”
She added, “Tonight President Obama inspired both sides of the aisle to think of the things we can accomplish by working together, and he challenged us to find common ground, set politics and partisanship aside, and focus on solving problems for the people we serve.”
After the speech, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) tweeted: “@POTUS reminded us we live in times of great advancements, & great peril, but America is great enough to meet all present & future challenges.”