Photo by Pete Souza/White House.

After every State of the Union speech, pundits rush to lament that the speech contained lofty rhetoric unmatched by substantial policy proposals. All the concrete ideas are “small bore,” a “laundry list.” And indeed, that’s a fair way to characterize last night’s speech.

But that criticism misses the point. The president does not control domestic policy. There are some things he can do from the executive branch, but for anything big, he has to ask the legislature. Given that this Congress has shown little appetite for doing, um, anything, it’s highly unlikely that Obama’s proposals will become law. If he proposes a “big idea,” it’s just a big idea that won’t become law, something to hang around his neck.