Obama’s ‘Season Premiere:’ 6 Surprises in State of the Union

21 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

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

Obama waves before giving his address as Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner applaud.(Photo: J. Scott Applewhite, Associated Press) President Barack Obama urged Americans to “turn the page” on years of economic trouble, terrorism and war in his State of the Union address Tuesday. One, laying out President Obama’s domestic policy initiatives, was detailed, specific, fact-filled, forward-looking, ambitious and replete with a certain swagger.

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 and his advisers clearly believe they have the wind at their back, with the president’s approval numbers finally rising as the economic recovery gains steam.

American leadership, Obama asserted before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, has been crucial to thwarting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, inflicting economic pain on Putin’s Russia, thawing relations with Cuba and averting potential war with Iran. Closing tax loopholes for the rich, providing free community college, helping families afford child care and requiring that workers be allowed to earn paid sick leave all sound great to me, although Republicans reacted with stony silence. And these policies will continue to work, as long as politics don’t get in the way.” Obama spoke before a Congress controlled by Republicans for the first time in his presidency. 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.

The president, at times, also managed to recapture the soaring lyricism of his campaign speeches and some of the brio of the days when his party controlled Congress. 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. Similarly, Obama cast his international coalition against ISIL as a diplomatic effort as much as a military one, contrasting it with the major ground wars launched by his Republican predecessor in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group,” Obama said. His acknowledgement of his own flaws and his call for “a better politics” that goes beyond “arguing past each other on cable shows” must have drawn amens. 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.

Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?” Obama said. “We see our neighbors agonize over stagnant wages and lost jobs. 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.

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. Obama has previously insisted he already has the necessary legal authority to strike ISIL, though on Tuesday night he asked Congress “to show the world that we are united in this mission.” That won’t be easy: There’s no clear consensus in Congress on the scope and duration of such an authorization, or whether it should rule out U.S. ground troops. White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer, previewing the plan, described it as setting up a showdown between “middle-class economics” and “trickle-down economics” to “see if we can come to an agreement.” But most political observers see Obama’s proposals as more of a search for political high ground than for common ground with his newly empowered GOP opponents. 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.

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. 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.

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