WASHINGTON, February 11, 2013 — The clock is ticking and President Obama knows it. If he is to get anything done in the next two years before the mid-term elections, much less secure his presidential legacy, he has to push hard to get his progressive agenda passed.
Now comes his State of the Union address before both Houses of Congress on Tuesday, February 12 at 9 p.m. EST. This is his chance to lay out his policy playbook for the American people and Congress. It will be ambitious, it will be progressive, it will be a challenge.
Thinking of a Presidential Legacy
Is he thinking of his presidential legacy? Sure, but he has already secured his place in the history books, and not just by being the first African-American to be elected president. He overhauled a broken health care system, once known derisively as Obamacare, although much remains to be done. It is as big an accomplishment as Medicare.
He began the process of repairing our financial system, but again much needs to be done to finish the job. He reversed the slide of America into another Great Depression. The Dow Jones gained an average of 6,000 points since he took office. He ended the war in Iraq and has begun the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan. And Osama bin Laden is no more.
However, the President is far from done so expect him to throw down the gauntlet to the Republicans, just as he did when went toe to toe with them as the fiscal cliff loomed.
Goals that he could not achieve in his first term, as the Republican obstruction machine ground everything to a halt, are the centerpiece of his address, leading off with job creation, shoring up the fast shrinking middle class, reforming the tax code to get the debt under control, and passing immigration and gun control legislation.
Job Creation at the Top of the List
President Obama spelled out his legislative thrust for the Democratic members of Congress when he met with them at their retreats last week: “I’m going to be talking about making sure that we’re focused on job creation here in the United States of America.”
Other priorities he will map out are confronting climate change, addressing gay rights, reshaping public education, and developing clean energy technology. While he is expected to touch on the war in Afghanistan and his vow to end it, the primary focus of Tuesday’s speech will concentrate on domestic policies.
As Obama told House Democrats at the Thursday retreat, “…my governing philosophy and my interest in public service grows out of how we make that union more perfect for more people day in and day out. And that starts with an economy that works for everybody.”
Confronting the Sequester Head-On
Obama aides say he won’t skirt the upcoming budget disputes, especially the March 1 deadline for the $85 million automatic defense and domestic cuts (aka the sequester) to kick in.
Rather the President is expected to echo a theme he sounded in his Saturday radio address, saying that the Republican plan for avoiding sequester uses cuts that would hit seniors and middle class families the hardest: “They would rather ask more from the vast majority of Americans and put our recovery at risk than close even a single tax loophole that benefits the wealthy.”
He will also say that, yes, the country needs to reduce its $16 trillion-plus debt, but that America also needs to invest in infrastructure, clean energy programs and education, investments that create jobs and rebuild the middle class.
President Obama will once again call upon Congress to reach a debt reduction agreement, which would include targeted budget cuts and new tax revenues to be achieved by erasing obvious tax loopholes and deductions.
Right now the wind is at the President’s back. The Republicans are facing heavy head winds, having not only lost the White House this go-around but having lost even more seats in the House and the Senate. And the American public holds them in very low regard, blaming them for what is wrong in Washington, which is why the GOP is working so feverishly to find its way out of this political wilderness.
While the President will still reach out to the Republicans with his usual olive branch, he will also continue to go over their heads directly to the American people as he has done since the campaign ended. If the inaugural speech was a battle call to Americans, the State of the Union is the map of the battle he is ready to fight on behalf of America. So pay close attention on Tuesday night.
To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media.
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