Reactions To President Obama’s Last SOTU Address

President Barack Obama delivering his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016.

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016.

Evan Vucci/Associated Press

In his final State of the Union address, President Barack Obama has called on Americans to remain hopeful and to embrace change instead of what he called "political hot air.'' Speaking to Congress and the nation in a prime-time address, Obama warned that election-year fear and division put economic and security progress at risk.

But Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin admits it will be a challenge this year to change the "rancor and suspicion" between political parties that President Obama spoke of Tuesday night.

Durbin gauged the reaction from both sides of the aisle shortly after Tuesday’s address.

“It is a tough thing to do in an election year," he said.  "Tougher than any other time. And the reaction by the Republican side of the aisle was not very encouraging tonight. But I happen to know there are specific Republican senators on issues that I can work with, and want to work with. So I haven’t given up. I still think we can find bipartisan solutions.”

But 13th District Congressman Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville) says Obama should stop criticizing the rhetoric in the GOP Presidential race - when he’s using some of the same tactics.

“I wish the president would look in the mirror," he said. "The president needs to show through his actions rather than his words that he’s serious about toning down the polarization and political climate in this country, cause he’s not doing his own job of making that happen.”

Davis also says President Obama has failed in his role as Commander in Chief, saying the president hasn’t secured the foreign policies that will let the U.S. partner with allies in order destroy terrorist threats like ISIS.

Davis says he was glad to hear Obama’s brief mention of criminal justice reform in the speech, saying it’s terrible that petty drug offenders often spend more time behind bars than sex offenders. Durbin says the president’s efforts could mean resources for more effective policing throughout small towns in Illinois.  

Davis, whose wife is a cancer survivor, also hopes to work with the Obama administration, and future ones, to cure the disease.  

There only a brief mention of gun control in Obama’s speech. Durbin says the president made a conscious effort two weeks ago to discuss the issue separately, to make sure it wasn’t lost in a litany of other issues Tuesday night.

And like the president, Durbin is also downplaying the threat ISIS poses on this country’s future.

"And what the president has talked about is not giving ISIS the bragging rights many of the Republican candidates (for president) give them about how important they are in the world today," he said. "We’re going to obliterate and eliminate ISIS, the president made that very clear.  But arguing that this is World War Three gives them much more credence than they deserve.”

Durbin calls President Obama’s address the kind given by a man tested by conflict, and served as a rebuttal to much of the rhetoric in the GOP race to succeed him. 

But 15th District Congressman John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) says Obama begins his last year in office with a more divided nation than when he started seven years ago. 

“Leadership is really the hard work of getting people to do what you want them to do, not because you force them to do it," he said.  "Not because you call them names, but you empower them, you inspire them to move in a direction.  And as lofty as the president’s rhetoric is, he has shown an inability to lead this nation.”

Shimkus also says he’ll support Obama's effort behind criminal justice reform. He says it’s time to end mandatory minimum prison sentences, and restore that power back to the courts.

The Republican also says he may support the Trans Pacific Partnership trade proposal, and the reduced taxes that come with it.

Story source: WILL