January 24, 2012 at 12:00 PM EST

In his last State of the Union address before he faces a re-election challenge, President Obama on Tuesday night called upon Congress to “lower the temperature in this town” and “work together.” But the television high point of the evening occurred just before the speech, as the President, in making his way to the podium, paused to hug Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who is resigning this week to recover from her brain injury. A chant of “Gabby, Gabby, Gabby” could be heard throughout the House floor, as Giffords was given a standing ovation.

Once the President began to speak, TV viewers might have been distracted by the small, persistent drama of whether Vice President Joe Biden would be able to slip another throat lozenge into his mouth to soothe a cough, without dropping it. Deftly done, Mr. Vice President! As for the President, he promised, in an attempt at a memorable phrase, “no bailouts, no handouts, no cop-outs” to financial institutions that helped plunge the economy. Speaking about “fair” tax reform, he said, in a reference to the phrase Republican presidential candidates have used against him repeatedly, “You can call this ‘class warfare’ all you want.” It was, inevitably, a State of the Union speech mixed with re-election politics.

The media coverage in anticipation of the speech — on CNN, on the Fox News Channel, on MSNBC, one and all — had pointed out that, earlier in the day, Republicans had engaged in “pre-butting the address,” an ugly coinage that referred to Republicans such as Rep. John Boehner rebutting the speech before it had been uttered. Post-speech, the news air was filled with more dissenters. Gov. Mitch Daniels delivered the Republican response to the President, asserting that Obama “cannot claim the past three years were anything but worse,” chastising “a government as bossy as this one,” as though the government was The Big Bang Theory‘s imperious Sheldon.

On CNN, Sen. Jim DeMint said the President, in his speech, “tried to run from a record of broken promises.” On Fox News, Sean Hannity interviewed Mitt Romney, who asserted that, on the basis of this night, the President is “disconnected from reality.”

Is it any wonder the broadcast network threw up its collective hands and went back to reruns of Modern Family and — oh, yes — The Big Bang Theory?

Twitter: @kentucker

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