Looking Ahead and Back
President Obama's second State of the Union message kicked off a basic argument in
The Republicans are putting their energies and rhetoric into repealing Obama's health-care reform act and achieving deep deficit reduction, and thus restoring the smaller government of long bygone days. The president has set his sights on economic recovery and growth through spending on infrastructure and skills development to create more jobs.
In the wake of sharp criticism that Obama spent too much time in 2009-10 on health-care reform at the expense of putting Americans back to work, his annual speech to
In both efforts, the newly empowered Republicans in the House are taking a political gamble that these stands will enhance their party's chances to make Obama a one-term president. But he is betting that a stepped-up emphasis on job creation through a second public-works stimulus will boost the economy, which is showing greater signs of life in a climbing stock market and corporate profitability.
The major political anchor around Obama's neck remains the so-called jobless recovery. So he is conditioning serious deficit reduction on improvement on the employment front, which may take much of the bite out of the
Since the midterm elections, which marked the low point politically for Obama to date, his efforts to take more centrist positions and achieve compromise during the lame-duck congressional session have boosted his approval ratings, enhanced also by his call in Tucson for more civility in public discourse.
The continuation of the harsh criticisms against him of the fall campaign season, much of it personal, risks voter backlash in the post-Tucson climate. Also, the absence of substantive Republican alternatives to health-care reform, only now being crafted and aired, has left a vacuum in the
In choosing to spotlight the repeal, critics have given Obama and his surrogates a second chance to sell the most popular features of the reform law, including the elimination of the bar to treatment for pre-existing conditions and coverage of dependents up to the age of 26.
On deficit reduction, specific recommendations are also yet to jell from a
The out-party's demand for debt reduction faces an intramural test with the approaching March deadline on raising the federal debt ceiling, required to keep the government running. Some tea partiers and conservatives are threatening to balk unless a substantial start is made to cutting the size and costs of the huge federal establishment.
Since the midterms, Obama has made gestures to the business community with recent appointments and by couching job-creation steps in benign terms. He talks of more government spending on new infrastructure as "investments" that can spur growth, while dealing with deficit reduction "in a responsible way," meaning no meat-ax slashing of social welfare programs.
As the Republicans dig in to reverse Obama's policies of the last two years, he is displaying his more conciliatory side, while clinging to his quest for some of the ambitious change promised in his 2008 election.
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Looking Ahead and Back | Politics
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