The following is a response to a Politico Arena question asking how President Obama did in his first State of the Union address
President Obama made a forceful, confident, unapologetic and optimistic speech to Congress and the nation this evening. He acknowedged the very difficult circumstances facing American citizens and promised the focus of this year will be on jobs. He called for some immediate steps to be taken but insisted on keeping on course to deal with our long-term economic challenges. And he explained and defended the steps he had taken to deal with the financial crisis and economic recession, and frankly asserted that the vast bulk of the deficits we face were inherited from the previous administration’s failure to pay for major tax cuts and spending increases.
The agenda he embraced was consistent with his campaign and first year in office and moderate in its approach. Importantly, he did not back away from his determination to enact comprehensive health reform this year and challenged member of both parties: Democrats not to run for the hills in the face of political controvery and Republicans, as long as they insist on 60-vote supermajorities to pass any legislation in the Senate to be part of the solution, not just say no.
His speech suggets that Democrats will move quickly to produce a jobs initiative in the Senate and then push to reform financial regulation. At the same time, he laid the ground for Democrats to move relentlessly if quietly toward adoption of comprehensive health reform, in spite of the outcome of the Massachusetts special Senate election. While he mentioned many other issues, his message was clear: his focus and priority is on the economy, including immediate action to produce more jobs and additional steps to address long term economic challenges, including R & D, energy, trade, education and health reform.
The speech was well-crafted and well-delivered and will likely be well-received by the public. But it is simply one speech, important mainly in what it tells us about how he will try to govern in these difficult times.