Praise Featured Video
CLOSE

Obama administration, take two.

President Barack Obama used his first State of the Union address to confront Americans’ widely felt economic uncertainty, but also the increasingly pervasive doubts among voters about his ability to enact the changes he promised as a candidate and newly elected leader.

And to regain momentum, Obama sought to harness a widespread apprehension he blamed on both economic infirmity and a recalcitrant political culture.

“I know the anxieties that are out there right now. They’re not new,” he said, citing the troubles of people without jobs and those forced to move from their homes. “For these Americans and so many others, change has not come fast enough.”

Obama acknowledged his own administration’s “political setbacks.”

“Right now, I know there are many Americans who aren’t sure if they still believe we can change — or at least, that I can deliver it,” he said.

“But remember this — I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I could do it alone.”

From the persistently high unemployment rate to stalled health care reform to the staggering budget deficits he described as one of the biggest threats to the economy, the president assigned guilt to politicians’ “partisanship and the shouting and the pettiness” that have alienated Americans.

“We have to recognize that we face more than a deficit of dollars right now,” Obama said, hitting a theme he plied so often while running for office in 2008. “We face a deficit of trust — deep and corrosive doubts about how Washington works that have been growing for years.”

Reflecting polls that show many voters feel Obama has paid too little attention to the economy, the overwhelming focus of his speech was fiscal policy, a defense of government stimulus efforts and proposals to spur hiring.

Obama called jobs “our No. 1 focus in 2010” and proposed using $30 billion of TARP funds to help community banks lend more to small businesses — $5 billion more than his advisers mentioned in a briefing to reporters earlier in the day.

He called for new tax incentives for businesses to encourage investment and tax breaks aimed at bolstering clean energy facilities and creating jobs in the U.S. rather than overseas. He asked Congress to finish work on an overhaul of financial regulation that, like health care reform, has stalled amid differences between the House and Senate.

And he argued that the bailouts of banks and other financial firms before and since he took office, along with stimulus measures credited with staving off a depression, were necessary evils — however unpopular they became.

“We all hated the bank bailout. I hated it. You hated it. It was about as popular as a root canal,” Obama said to great applause.

The president said remarkably little about foreign affairs, especially considering how much his Afghan policies dominated Washington debate just two months ago, and that terrorism fears were renewed by the failed attempt to bomb a U.S. airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day.

The one newish national security initiative was a pledge to work this year toward repeal of the don’t ask, don’t tell rule that keeps openly gay men and women out of the military — following through on a campaign promise he mostly ignored in 2009.

Obama announced little new policy detail, in part, perhaps, because so much of the policies he pushed during his first year remain on the congressional drawing board.

With health care, for instance, Obama pleaded with Congress to return to the legislative effort all but ignored since the Democrats lost a Senate seat in Massachusetts earlier this month.

“This is a complex issue, and the longer it was debated, the more skeptical people became. I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people,” Obama said. “But I also know this problem is not going away. By the time I’m finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance. … I will not walk away from these Americans, and neither should the people in this chamber.”

If health care was the issue most associated with the president’s first year, the budget deficit has dominated the early days of his second, and he called deficit reduction “a challenge that makes all others that much harder to solve, and one that’s been subject to a lot of political posturing.”

To confront the problem, and a reluctance to tackle it directly in Congress — where the Senate rejected creation of a deficit-reduction task force on Tuesday — Obama said he will issue an executive order to create a commission that “will have to provide a specific set of solutions by a certain deadline,” and fight for the freeze on some domestic discretionary spending announced by the White House earlier in the week.

“And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will,” he said.

Obama also renewed his campaign assault on lobbyists, whose influence he blamed for impeding reform efforts and the “credibility gap” between Washington and voters.

But he repeatedly returned to the argument that “none of these reforms will even happen if we don’t also reform how we work with one another.”

“I am not naïve. I never thought the mere fact of my election would usher in peace, harmony, and some post-partisan era,” he said.

via aol dot com

Leave a Reply