Obama State Of The Union Address Highlights Battle For The Middle Class

21 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

“The shadow of crisis has passed, and the State of the Union is strong,” he said..

From the start of his second term, the president has endured a cascade of foreign policy crises that often left him looking reactive and uncertain. The Washington Post writes: “After years of fighting with Republicans over where to take the country, Obama delivered an hour-long defense of his policies that at times sounded like a victory lap.Seven years ago this month, when Barack Obama won the Democratic caucus in Iowa and was on his way to being elected president, he offered the American people a hopeful and optimistic vision of America’s future.President Obama on Tuesday night directly mentioned lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in his State of the Union address — the first time any of those words has ever made it into the annual speech. “As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened,” Obama said, adding, “That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.” He asserted that the brightening economic picture — including accelerating job growth, more people with health insurance and lower gas prices — had proved that he was right, and his adversaries misguided, all along.

The speech laid out an agenda aimed at leveling the economic playing field — and setting issues for the 2016 presidential campaign and his last two years in office. “At this moment — with a growing economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry and booming energy production — we have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth,” Obama said. “It’s now up to us to choose who we want to be over the next 15 years, and for decades to come.” The president also declared that “the verdict is clear. Obama touched on tax-related programs to benefit middle-class and working families, on improving relations with Cuba and fighting terrorism, at times striking a defiant tone with Republicans. At one point, he mocked the party’s unshakable determination to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry 830,000 barrels of petroleum per day from Canada to the Gulf Coast. “Let’s set our sights higher than a single oil pipeline,” he chided.” Mic check: Obama’s speech was largely free from political attacks, which are common during his speeches, but he couldn’t resist, giving this unscripted line, NBC News’ Andrew Rafferty reports.

That is comeuppance, he said, for Republican critics who say the man who declined to bomb Syria or arm the Ukrainians is too timid in the face of foreign adversaries: “When we make rash decisions, reacting to the headlines instead of using our heads; when the first response to a challenge is to send in our military — then we risk getting drawn into unnecessary conflicts, and neglect the broader strategy we need for a safer, more prosperous world,” Obama said. “That’s what our enemies want us to do.” Obama was particularly boastful — cocky, even — about the dismal state of Putin’s economy. “Last year, as we were doing the hard work of imposing sanctions along with our allies, some suggested that Mr. Six years ago, nearly 180,000 American troops served in Iraq and Afghanistan.” Obama asked, rhetorically, “Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Her 10-minute speech mentioned the president just a handful of times and was much kinder to the White House than many of the responses given by her Republican colleagues. But what he proposed suggests he has no plans to curtail his agenda in favor of GOP priorities, even though key elements of his economic plan appear unlikely to pass Congress.

Joni Ernst of Iowa gave the Republican response, telling voters Republicans heard voters’ message “loud and clear” in November. “Instead of focusing on Obama, Ernst laid out a GOP agenda that will face stiff opposition in Congress, even with Republican control of both the House and Senate,” NBC’s Andrew Rafferty writes. Like his claims about Putin’s Russia, experts say that’s debatable: Obama said the coalition was “stopping ISIL’s advance,” but by many accounts the group continues to acquire territory in Syria and remains potent in Iraq. Will we allow ourselves to be . . . turned against one another . . . or will we recapture the sense of common purpose that has always propelled America forward?” The contrast could not have been clearer — which party supports only the few, which party drags the nation into costly conflicts, which party turns Americans against each other?

Now that Obama has floated raising capital gains taxes on the wealthy and expanding tax incentives for the middle class, Republicans insist those proposals show that the president isn’t serious about tax reform.” The Tea Party offered a different tone than one it usually expresses, Politico writes: “He talked about embracing diversity, welcoming immigrants and teamwork. Surely, in Obama’s view, it’s not the Democrats. “At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious; that we would crush jobs and explode deficits,” said the president. “Instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care inflation at its lowest rate in fifty years.” Or to put that more concisely, Obama was telling congressional Republicans — who spent most of the speech either on their hands or on their phones — “you lied.” Obama went through a litany of progressive policy goals, including raising the minimum wage, expanding subsidized child care, and providing free community college, all of which have little chance of becoming law.

After Disneyland said earlier this month that there were at least 20 cases of measles linked to people who’ve visited the theme park, officials in Orange County, California, are now saying park employees have also contracted the disease. “Several Disneyland employees in multiple jurisdictions” have been sickened, a county spokeswoman said. Seeking explicit buy-in from a Congress that has often criticized his ISIL policy from the sidelines, Obama issued his most direct call yet for Congress to formally authorize the aerial campaign he began in August. We see the hurt caused by canceled health care plans and higher monthly insurance bills,” she said. “But when we demanded solutions, too often Washington responded with the same stale mind-set that led to failed policies like Obamacare,” the Affordable Care Act. “It’s a mind-set that gave us political talking points, not serious solutions.” Republicans said Obama’s ideas were designed more to help Democratic election prospects in 2016. “He knows we’re not likely to pass these kinds of measures,” new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said before the speech. “We’ll still look for things that we can actually agree on to try to make some progress here.” In two potential areas of compromise with Republicans, Obama urged Congress to pass cybersecurity legislation and a new authorization for military action against the Islamic State.

He defended his policies overseas as “a smarter kind of American leadership.” “We lead best when we combine military power with strong diplomacy, when we leverage our power with coalition-building, when we don’t let our fears blind us to the opportunities that this new century presents,” he said. “That’s exactly what we’re doing right now — and around the globe, it is making a difference.” Buoyed by a rising public approval, improving economy and relative stability abroad, Obama is eager to use the moment to show the public — and Washington — that he won’t go quietly, White House aides suggested. According to Obama, “We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely we can agree . . . that every woman should have access to the health care she needs.” On immigration, he said, “surely . . . it’s possible to shape a law that upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.” On voting rights, “surely we can agree that the right to vote is sacred; that it’s being denied to too many, and . . . we can come together, Democrats and Republicans, to make voting easier for every single American.” But of course Republicans don’t believe that – and surely Obama knows this. In political speechwriting, one often tries to create a strawman, an argument so fanciful and unrealistic that the speaker can then proceed to beat the bloody hell out of it. The AirAsia plane that crashed in the Java Sea in December, killing 162 on board, climbed about 6,000 feet a minute — an extraordinary ascent for an airliner, Indonesia’s transport minister said Tuesday. “It can only be done by a fighter jet,” he said.

Republicans in Congress, backed by many Democrats, are set to push legislation imposing new sanctions on Tehran if a nuclear deal isn’t reached by the current deadline of June 30, or if Iran abandons the talks. The suggestion that members of both parties can agree on issues like women’s health, immigration, and voting was meant solely to remind voters which party, in reality, has little interested in compromise.

Obama has said that sanctions would fracture the delicate international coalition pressuring Tehran — “will all but guarantee that diplomacy fails,” as he put it Tuesday, promising to veto new sanctions legislation. Obama showed that he fully intends not only to maintain his relevance as president, but that he will do everything in his power to leave behind as his legacy a strengthened Democratic Party and a political narrative in which the fundamental differences between the two parties could not be clearer. Journalist Kenji Goto, one of the two Japanese men captured by ISIS, went to Syria to find his friend, Haruna Yakawa, who had vanished last August and had been abducted by the terrorist militants. A president who has sought to move America from what he has called a “permanent war footing” spent more time touting his diplomatic breakthrough with Cuba (“new hope for the future”) and his October climate deal with China (“offering hope”) than he did the fight against radical Islam.

Sunday’s AFC championship game between the New England Patriots and the Indianapolis Colts ended with a Pats victory and the team on its way to next month’s Super Bowl. ESPN reported Tuesday that the NFL found 11 of the 12 footballs used were under-inflated by two pounds each, and decreasing the weight of a football can give players a competitive advantage.

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