President Obama's final State of the Union address was part stump speech for the third term he'll never have and part melancholy addendum to the first speech that propelled him to national attention.
Far more than with George W. Bush in 2008, Bill Clinton in 2000 or Ronald Reagan in 1988, the roiling presidential campaign was an unmentioned but omnipresent subtext of the speech. While Obama's two-term predecessors referred only glancingly to the impending election, his would-be Republican replacements were the unnamed but unmistakable targets of Obama's critique.
Indeed, Donald Trump was watching; the speech, he tweeted, "is really boring, slow, lethargic," which raises the question of what, exactly, he imagines serving as president is like.
Obama's intended audience wasn't so much Trump et al., but voters tempted by Trump's ugly, divisive message. Americans shouldn't be seduced, Obama argued, by those "peddling fiction" about America's economy in decline or American military strength waning.