Nets Cheer Obama’s ‘Return to Hope and Change’ in State of the Union

On Wednesday, all three network morning shows offered rave reviews of President Obama’s final State of the Union address, applauding the “passionate defense of his record” and his repeated attacks on Republicans.

Leading off NBC’s Today, co-host Matt Lauer announced: “Return to hope and change....President Obama uses his last State of the Union address to tout his accomplishments, set some lofty goals, and take a veiled shot at Donald Trump.”

In the report that followed minutes later, correspondent Peter Alexander gushed: “...he really sounded liberated last night. For months, more than 20 presidential candidates have framed his time in office. Last night, it was the President's turn. It sounded a lot like a campaign speech, attacking the politics of pessimism and carving out what he views as the path forward for Democrats.”

Alexander continued: “President Obama repeatedly rejected the Republican campaign rhetoric....Seven years and plenty of gray hair removed from his calls for hope and change, the President highlighted his greatest hits and offered optimistic goals...”

On ABC’s Good Morning America, co-host George Stephanopoulos enthused: “...[Obama] tweeted out right before that he was just as hungry as when he started out. And, you know, the President didn't only echo some of his greatest hits, he seemed to be itching to get back out on the campaign trail and take on his rivals.”

Moments later, Stephanopoulos proclaimed: “Pretty punchy and passionate defense of his record, optimistic overall but the President also showed a rare flash of regret and he was not shy about taking on the Republicans hoping to replace him.” Correspondent Jon Karl added: “But his overall message is that his critics are just plain wrong, that America under his leadership is booming....Obama pitched optimism for the future and a case for a Democrat to succeed him...”

On CBS This Morning, correspondent Margaret Brennan began her report: “President Obama told his staff back in November that he wants this last State of the Union to feel a lot like his very first. A reflective to-do list for the next generation.” She also promoted how Obama “was pointed in trying to tear down some of the claims of those Republicans hoping to replace him.”

Wrapping up the segment, Brennan fawned: “With the fanfare behind him, the President left the chamber for the last time, pausing for a moment to take it all in....Today, the President will sound a lot like candidate Obama, as he flies to Nebraska and Louisiana to promote this message of hope and change once again.”

Here is a full transcript of Alexander’s report on the January 13 Today:

7:00 AM ET TEASE:

MATT LAUER: Return to hope and change.

BARACK OBAMA: That's why I stand here as confident as I have ever been that the state of our union is strong!

LAUER: President Obama uses his last state of the union address to tout his accomplishments, set some lofty goals, and take a veiled shot at Donald Trump.

OBAMA: We need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion.

LAUER: That sentiment echoed in a surprising Republican response from South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.

GOV. NIKKI HALEY [R-SC]: During anxious times it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation.

LAUER: This morning she's with us live, and Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton joins us as well.         

7:04 AM ET SEGMENT:

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: President Obama did not mention that incident with Iran during his final State of the Union address. It was a speech that was, as promised, big on his vision for the future of America, with a lot of focus on the race to succeed him at the White House. We'll talk about all of it with South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who delivered the Republican response, and Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton in just a moment. But first to NBC national correspondent Peter Alexander at White House with the latest on the speech. Peter, good morning.

PETER ALEXANDER: Savannah, good morning. I stuck around when you guys left. This was the first of many lasts for President Obama, and he really sounded liberated last night. For months, more than 20 presidential candidates have framed his time in office. Last night, it was the President's turn. It sounded a lot like a campaign speech, attacking the politics of pessimism and carving out what he views as the path forward for Democrats.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: President Looks Back and Ahead; Addresses Nation’s Fears, 2016 Race in Final SOTU]

Leading off his last State of the Union, a presidential pledge everyone could agree on.

BARACK OBAMA: I'm gonna to try to make it a little shorter. I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa.

ALEXANDER: Less than three weeks before the first contest to pick his replacement, without naming names, President Obama repeatedly rejected the Republican campaign rhetoric.

OBAMA: When politicians insult Muslims, whether abroad or our fellow citizens, that doesn't make us safer. That's not telling – telling it like it is. It's just wrong....All the talk of America's economic decline is political hot air....And our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet bomb civilians.

ALEXANDER: Seven years and plenty of gray hair removed from his calls for hope and change, the President highlighted his greatest hits and offered optimistic goals, included putting Joe Biden in charge of what he called a moon shot to cure cancer.

OBAMA: I'm putting Joe in charge of mission control.

ALEXANDER: While ignoring the topic of gun violence at home, the President also forcefully rebutted criticisms that he's been weak abroad.

OBAMA: If you doubt America's commitment or mine to see that justice is done, just ask Osama Bin Laden.

ALEXANDER: And, again, defended his strategy against ISIS.

OBAMA: Over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands.

ALEXANDER: Punctuating his speech, a call to fix our politics and a concession.

OBAMA: It's one of the few regrets of my presidency, that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better.

ALEXANDER: In his final address, a soaring conclusion.

OBAMA: I believe in change because I believe in you, the American people, and that's why I stand here as confident as I have ever been that the state of our union is strong!

ALEXANDER: Still, the Republicans were unimpressed. Ted Cruz –  

SEN. TED CRUZ [R-TX]: Sadly I think it was less a State of the Union than it was a state of denial.

ALEXANDER: And Donald Trump, this time blasting the President as low energy, dismissing the speech as “boring, slow” and “lethargic.” South Carolina Republican Governor Nikki Haley, tasked with responding to the President, made news for also taking aim at her party's frontrunner.

GOV. NIKKI HALEY [R-SC]: During anxious times it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation.

ALEXANDER: The Republican Party right now trying to re-brand itself as new, young, and diverse. And what was really striking is that contrast on display between the party of Nikki Haley and Paul Ryan and the party of Donald Trump. Already Haley, though, is getting significant backlash from some conservative members within her own party. Matt?

LAUER: Alright, Peter Alexander, thanks very much.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is the Senior News Analyst for MRC