Lessons from the past; promises for the future

President Barack Obama is applauded by Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011, while delivering his State of the Union address (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool)

President Barack Obama reached back into the past in a State of the Union address that was all about winning the future.

He meant victory for America. And, perhaps, himself, too.

In style and substance, Obama resurrected themes from his groundbreaking 2008 campaign as he started making the case for his next one.

With the world watching, Obama cast himself anew as a post-partisan, pragmatic, reasonable, solutions-oriented leader focused on protecting the American dream and ensuring the country’s dominance. He spoke directly to the fears of Americans everywhere that their county is in decline. And he issued a call to greatness while sketching out a long-term vision for how the nation can achieve it.

“We do big things,” Obama said, delivering an optimistic pitch that spoke to the country’s can-do spirit.

Sound familiar? It should.

Unlike candidate Obama of 2008, though, he’s no clean slate offering gauzy promises of change to Americans looking for a leader to right the country.

He’s the president. With a two-year record that divides the public. And a stubbornly high unemployment rate. Who must work with the reinforced ranks of Republicans in Congress. And convince the polarized country — including skeptical independents who wield huge power in presidential elections — that the change he wrought is sound.

Ultimately, he must convince the nation that he should get four more years at the helm.

Obama is clearly aware of his new reality, given the speech he delivered. He spoke to what unites, instead of divides, Americans.

There were few sharply ideological pitches. There was little partisanship. And for all the talk about economic revival for years to come, there wasn’t much talk about how to address the country’s most immediate concern: reducing the 9.4 percent jobless rate and stoking a sluggish recovery.

This was much bigger than the here and now. Obama set a much loftier goal: rebuilding people’s faith in government.

Republicans bashed him for it.

“In Texas we prefer straight talk and promises kept over grandiose pledges and zero results,” chided GOP Sen. John Cornyn of Texas.

Such criticism aside, Tuesday night’s address laid bare Obama’s desire to channel the above-it-all persona with which he captured a broad coalition of voters who vaulted him to the White House. He’s spent the months since the November elections overhauling his presidency as he adjusts to an era of divided government in Washington and prepares to run for re-election.

Polls show that the effort has paid dividends: His job-performance rating stands at 53 percent in the most recent Associated Press-GfK poll and at 51 percent among independents. Still, just 30 percent of independents score his presidency above average or better, down from a year ago. And they divide about evenly on whether he deserves to be re-elected.

It’s little wonder that Obama, from the start of his address, struck an above-the-fray posture and called for bipartisan solutions to the nation’s ills as he referenced the shooting in Arizona, the tragedy that has helped unite the country.

“Amid all the noise and passions and rancor of our public debate, Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is part of something greater — something more consequential than party or political preference,” he said. “We are part of the American family.”

At nearly every turn, the president called for Republicans and Democrats to work together to tackle “challenges decades in the making.” Like fixing the immigration system. Making 80 percent of the country’s electricity come from clean energy sources by 2035. Simplifying the tax system. And strengthening Social Security.

He also repeatedly extended a hand to the GOP, entertaining their ideas on issues like medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits. But he didn’t budge on his refusal to permanently lower taxes on the top 2 percent of U.S. earners, showing that his effort to compromise has limits.

None of it sat well with Obama’s liberal base. The president is gambling that the left eventually will fall in line behind him. It’s a safe bet: He faces no serious primary challenger and still is hugely popular among his core backers, despite grumbling.

Obama’s conciliatory posture offered a sharp contrast to the past two years, in which he leveraged huge Democratic majorities in Congress to pass sweeping legislation with virtually no Republican support. The GOP, for its part, stood in near lockstep against Obama at every turn.

But Republicans were the ones who benefited in November, when voters decided they’d had enough of Democrats controlling all the levers of power in Washington.

Obama was quick to remind Republicans that they, too, will be held accountable for the successes or failures of the next two years.

Despite uneasiness about the scope of government spending at a time of budget-busting deficits, Obama called for huge investments to spur innovation, education and infrastructure. They met immediate resistance from Republicans, who cast him as a tax-and-spend liberal even before he delivered the speech. House Republicans went on record to return most domestic agencies to 2008 budget levels.

“This is our Sputnik moment,” said an undeterred Obama. “The future is ours to win but to get there we cannot stand still.”

Previewing his likely re-election pitch and addressing top concerns of Americans, he made the case that the country is on the right course but that more must be done by both sides to make the nation competitive.

“At stake right now is not who wins the next election,” Obama insisted.

Even as he started making the case that he should be the one.

____

Liz Sidoti has covered national politics for The Associated Press since 2003.

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press

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12 Responses to "Lessons from the past; promises for the future"

  1. Carl Nemo  January 26, 2011 at 2:20 pm

    State of Union ‘performances’ had their purpose at one time in our nation’s history, but in these desperate times for America it’s insulting to have to listen to more hollow promises from the very people that are responsible for placing our nation in harms way.

    The audience is most irritating too; ie., our now Congressional ‘politburo’ that’s morphed into a bunch of hand clapping simps.

    Obama wormed his way to the highest office in our land on hollow promises and has delivered little to nothing of substance to date while acquiescing to the needs of Wall Street over main street in addition to the large banking centers and mega-insurerers such as AIG.

    His advisers to date have been mostly retreads from past administrations going as far back as the Reagan/H.W. Bush era along with 30 plus faceless ‘czars’ and a continuation of Congressionally circumventing Executive Orders from his pen as those before him. Many of these appointments can be linked directly to our current trials and tribulations concerning banking laws etc. during the Clinton era. As I’ve said before he was groomed to be simply a holding president between republican regimes that represent mostly the haves and have mores in our society. Twenty of the past thirty years of presidential terms have been held by republicans along with their negative influence concerning our public debt. Their love affair with the MIC along with its necessary ‘care and feeding’ is directly linked to the seemingly assured destruction of America.

    We don’t need anymore stinkin’ speeches, but some citizen friendly legislation and action along with the enforcement of existent laws on the books. Even Justice has been terminally corrupted in these challenging times for the Republic.

    Fie on them all…! : |

    *****

    ” If we can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people, under the pretence of taking care of them, they must become happy.” …Thomas Jefferson

    *****

    Carl Nemo **==

    • logtroll  January 26, 2011 at 6:06 pm

      Did mean only to express mild disgust, disapprobation, and/or annoyance, Cap’n?

      I expected saltier talk from your quarter.

      • Carl Nemo  January 26, 2011 at 6:28 pm

        On this one logtroll I donned my tricorn hat of 240 years, then put a freshly cut quill to ink and wrote this long hand on parchment prior to typing it out as webfare. I’m always an officer, gentleman and scholar first. : )

        I only switch to my ‘salty mode’ when standing on the quarterdeck of the USS Constitution to face our enemies be they foreign or domestic. : |

        Carl Nemo **==

        • logtroll  January 26, 2011 at 7:54 pm

          Maybe I’m confusing your character with another… ain’t yer snorkel boat the Nautilus??

          • Carl Nemo  January 26, 2011 at 8:47 pm

            Subs don’t lend themselves to the adventure found with surface fleet maneuvers. What’s interesting is that an attack sub can circle an entire fleet and sink every vessel before they can respond with an appropriate defense, but it still doesn’t lend itself to the pyrotechnics found in surface to surface or surface to air engagements.

            Marines refer to submariners as “chickens of the sea” for a reason… : )) It’s the ultimate bomb shelter when patrolling the oceans at a nominal 200 meter depth.

            I referenced the USS Constitution simply for impact concerning my reply and seems more appropriate when addressing the gross tyranny we now find issued from the highest levels of our government all in the name of a war on a noun; ie., ‘terror’.

            Terror can come from any quarter since it’s utilized for psychological impact although many times it’s physical in nature, but still there’s no one with whom to parley or to sign a peace accord therefore it’s a politicians “wet dream” come true when it comes to bleeding a nation white in order to feed the gods of the MIC along with their ‘take’ for a piece of the action.

            9/11 wasn’t an act of war, but an act commited by a cell of Saudi nationals therefore falls into the same category as piracy on the high seas or the acts of international criminals with deadly intent.

            As far as our leadership is concerned we can fight until the 12th of forever and still never worry about a cessation of hostilities. We’ve met the enemy and he is them; I.E., our now rogue leadership with an agenda for us which seems hellbent on creating a dystopian police state populated with ever fearful tax slaves. : |

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Constitution

            Carl Nemo **==

    • griff  January 26, 2011 at 6:15 pm

      Yep.

  2. Almandine  January 26, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    Speaking of terror… who amongst us can get the up-and-coming Patriot Act renewal scuttled, as it should be.

    • woody188  January 27, 2011 at 12:37 am

      I think you know as well as I that we’ll never be free from the PATRIOT Act.

      “But a Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.” – John Adams

  3. griff  January 27, 2011 at 12:04 am

    How about these lesson from the past?

    “In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” – Thomas Jefferson

    From Andrew Jackson’s farewell address…

    “In reviewing the conflicts which have taken place between different interests in the United States and the policy pursued since the adoption of our present form of Government, we find nothing that has produced such deep-seated evil as the course of legislation in relation to the currency. The Constitution of the United States unquestionably intended to secure to the people a circulating medium of gold and silver. But the establishment of a national bank by Congress, with the privilege of issuing paper money receivable in the payment of the public dues, and the unfortunate course of legislation in the several States upon the same subject, drove from general circulation the constitutional currency and substituted one of paper in its place.

    It was not easy for men engaged in the ordinary pursuits of business, whose attention had not been particularly drawn to the subject, to foresee all the consequences of a currency exclusively of paper, and we ought not on that account to be surprised at the facility with which laws were obtained to carry into effect the paper system. Honest and even enlightened men are sometimes misled by the specious and plausible statements of the designing. But experience has now proved the mischiefs and dangers of a paper currency, and it rests with you to determine whether the proper remedy shall be applied.

    The paper system being founded on public confidence and having of itself no intrinsic value, it is liable to great and sudden fluctuations, thereby rendering property insecure and the wages of labor unsteady and uncertain. The corporations which create the paper money can not be relied upon to keep the circulating medium uniform in amount. In times of prosperity, when confidence is high, they are tempted by the prospect of gain or by the influence of those who hope to profit by it to extend their issues of paper beyond the bounds of discretion and the reasonable demands of business; and when these issues have been pushed on from day to day, until public confidence is at length shaken, then a reaction takes place, and they immediately withdraw the credits they have given, suddenly curtail their issues, and produce an unexpected and ruinous contraction of the circulating medium, which is felt by the whole community. The banks by this means save themselves, and the mischievous consequences of their imprudence or cupidity are visited upon the public. Nor does the evil stop here. These ebbs and flows in the currency and these indiscreet extensions of credit naturally engender a spirit of speculation injurious to the habits and character of the people. We have already seen its effects in the wild spirit of speculation in the public lands and various kinds of stock which within the last year or two seized upon such a multitude of our citizens and threatened to pervade all classes of society and to withdraw their attention from the sober pursuits of honest industry. It is not by encouraging this spirit that we shall best preserve public virtue and promote the true interests of our country; but if your currency continues as exclusively paper as it now is, it will foster this eager desire to amass wealth without labor; it will multiply the number of dependents on bank accommodations and bank favors; the temptation to obtain money at any sacrifice will become stronger and stronger, and inevitably lead to corruption, which will find its way into your public councils and destroy at no distant day the purity of your Government. Some of the evils which arise from this system of paper press with peculiar hardship upon the class of society least able to bear it. A portion of this currency frequently becamedepreciated or worthless, and all of it is easily counterfeited in such a manner as to require peculiar skill and much experience to distinguish the counterfeit from the genuine note. These frauds are most generally perpetrated in the smaller notes, which are used in the daily transactions of ordinary business, and the losses occasioned by them are commonly thrown upon the laboring classes of society, whose situation and pursuits put it out of their power to guard themselves from these impositions, and whose daily wages are necessary for their subsistence. It is the duty of every government so to regulate its currency as to protect this numerous class, as far as practicable, from the impositions of avarice and fraud. It is more especially the duty of the United States, where the Government is emphatically the Government of the people, and where this respectable portion of our citizens are so proudly distinguished from the laboring classes of all other nations by their independent spirit, their love of liberty, their intelligence, and their high tone of moral character. Their industry in peace is the source of our wealth and their bravery in war has covered us with glory; and the Government of the United States will but ill discharge its duties if it leaves them a prey to such dishonest impositions. Yet it is evident that their interests can not be effectually protected unless silver and gold are restored to circulation.

    Read the entire address here.

    Now, compare that address with the pathetic state of the union address and other such recent speeches by our illustrious leaders, and wonder why we’re in such dire straits these days.

    But go on, folks, worship O’Reilly and Olbermann, Beck and Maddow, and all the other spokesmodels that get paid to make you feel good about you own servitude, that make millions selling you on how good and patriotic it is to be raped day in and day out, how wonderful and loving this government is, how much they care about your well-being and security, how they’re on the job 24/7/365 working toward you betterment.

    And then call, write, or e-mail your “representatives” and urge them to support and vote for a full audit of the Federal Reserve in HR 459 and S 202.

    • logtroll  January 27, 2011 at 10:25 am

      Griff,

      You would likely be interested in a couple of active topics over on the Reader Rant concerning money and capitalism.

  4. eve  January 27, 2011 at 3:15 am

    Lessons from the past?
    Don’t you have to be somewhat educated in order to learn from the past?
    Those (or some at least) who are responsible for the financial crisis are finally being named in print:

    http://www.thestreet.com/story/10985108/1/panel-spreads-financial-crisis-blame-report.html

    Most Americans do not realize they are in a pitch-black room and there’s a deep, wide hole somewhere in that room.

    • Carl Nemo  January 27, 2011 at 1:17 pm

      Thanks for the link eve. What’s interesting is that these reports expose these people for their ineptitude and/or criminally disposed big business/bank friendly posture, but they are never held accountable for their actions by them being fired or in some cases indicted and brought to trial.

      It’s just a bunch boohoo bullsh*t while the order of the day is business as usual.

      When I see either Greenspan or Bernanke’s photo’s I get sick to my stomach knowing what these guys are all about; ie., nothing but running dog’s for the private shareholders of the Federal Reserve leading back to the Rothschilds of England. They aren’t allowed original, citizen friendly thoughts, but are expected to follow directives from these shadowy oligarchs…period!

      Here’s a 1976 chart showing who owns the Fed and the byzantine network of movers and shakers that own our collective butts lock, stock and barrel.
      The Fed along with other central banks are an international monolith. Nothing changes and has remained the same since it’s founding in 1913. Only Lehman Bros is no longer on the charts as an entity, but rest assured the wealthy one’s that owned Lehman and were immunized from the disaster are still players when it comes to Federal Reserve orchestrated antics.

      http://www.save-a-patriot.org/files/view/whofed.html

      Carl Nemo **==

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