Obama: the president who will not go quietly
President Obama – the ideas guy – returned to the podium on Capitol Hill overnight. Delivering his penultimate State of the Union address, he was confident, determined to celebrate his government’s successes, and describe the work still to be done.
He celebrated what he described as a “breakthrough” year for the economy, now through the crisis, citing strong growth and job creation at its fastest rate since 1999.
Why? Because his administration had worked on “the middle class economy”. There were even real life middle class people inside the chamber, so the camera had somewhere to look when the president described their stories.
Enemy number one (aside from a combative Republican congress)? Income inequality. The president spoke about the need for childcare, paid sick leave, tax cuts for middle wage earners, free education after high school at community colleges, and jobs, jobs and jobs. He exhorted anyone opposed to raising the minimum wage to “try living on $15,000 a year”.
He warned he would reach for his veto, if any bills landed on his desk endangering healthcare, bank regulation, immigration.
On foreign policy, the comments were brief. Yes, Guantanamo should be closed. Iran negotiations are a great success and should continue, and any effort to bring sanctions would be vetoed. Bringing Cuba in from the cold makes sense because continuing any policy which hasn’t had the desired effect for more than 50 years doesn’t make sense.
There were new words, never before used in a State of the Union speech – Instagram, lesbian, transgender and bisexual.
Ferguson and New York were given brief mention… not in a concrete, policy kind of way. The president sidestepped around Keystone, and shimmied by climate change, privacy protection and abortion.
There was much appealing for bi-partisanship, on the need to put politics to one side to do the work America needs to be done.
But ultimately, it was an unscripted aside that ended up revealing the most in President Obama’s hour-long speech. The moment when the president, winding up for his big finale, told the chamber: “I have no more campaigns to run.”
Cue wry appreciative applause from a few Republicans. The president returned with his own wry smile, then added off script: “I know because I won both of ‘em.”
For all his conciliatory talk, this is a president who will not go quietly.
Follow @C4KylieM on Twitter