Obama wasn’t afraid of fellow Democrats in recognizing that reining in entitlements – Social Security and Medicare – over the long haul is essential to reduce the deficit. And he wasn’t afraid of Republicans in suggesting that, while it’s important to eliminate silly or intrusive regulations, he’s not going to back off of regulations necessary for safety or consumer protection. In other words, we’re still going to have an activist government, as Michael Gerson of The Washington Post points out.
Comprehensive immigration reform is still on the table, and the President even got a round of applause from Arizona Senator John McCain, who was for immigration reform before he was against it, as a 2010 candidate. And he isn’t going to cave to the push to repeal health reform, though he allowed as how he’s open to improving it, even flirting with some unspecified tinkering with malpractice insurance. He also gave a nod to corporate tax reform, noting that, by eliminating tax loopholes, the tax rates could be lowered.
Need I say “devil is in the details?” Obama’s speech lacked specificity about hard choices to be made, as economist Robert Samuelson points out. What are the trade-offs that will be necessary to get anything done, especially in this stage of the presidential election cycle?
Obama rightly read the national mood delivered in last November’s election results and no doubt is doing what Bill Clinton did after Newt Gingrich et al “shellacked” him in 1994. But beyond the comfort of his moving to the center and embracing bipartisanship, there’s probably not much to go to the bank on in the rhetorical flourishes of the State-of-the-Union address.
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