Last night, stepping back from a stark economic backdrop, deficit fears, and partisan budget arguments, President Obama called Americans to look forward with hope and issued a challenge to invest in our country’s international competitiveness. Without using the current catch-phrase “exceptionalism,” Obama's address focused on the country’s track record of greatness and its potential to lead in innovation. “What we can do—what America does better than anyone else—is spark the creativity and imagination of our people,” the president said. “We’re the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook.” But he pointed out that this will not come without effort, saying we need to invest in innovation and education and to “take responsibility for our deficit and reform our government.”
The speech was more thematic than specific, with the president setting goals rather than laying out a step-by-step policy plan. Initially, that seems to be what viewers wanted. U.S. News blogger Robert Schlesinger points out, “The insta-returns are in and the president knocked the State of the Union out of the ballpark.” A CBS poll directly following the speech showed 91 percent of viewers approved of the proposals Obama made, while 9 percent disapproved. “No great surprises here,” Schlesinger writes. “The speech was well-delivered and seemed to be constructed not to pick partisan fights.”
But The Weekly Standard blogger Stephen F. Hayes disagrees. He found the State of the Union meaningless. “Overall, the speech was a lot like the Obama presidency: phony bipartisanship, too much spending, unconvincing rhetoric on fiscal restraint, and not enough attention to foreign policy and national security.” His fellow blogger Fred Barnes called Obama’s goal of “‘winning the future’ a fuzzy goal if there ever was one,” he wrote. “But how about winning the present?”
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