In State of the Union, Obama tries to make a place for himself in the history books

President urged civility and common purpose.
TNS Regional News
Jan 28, 2014

 

President Barack Obama on Tuesday followed a familiar script for presidents entering their sixth year, as he tried to revive his waning political clout while shaping his legacy.

Obama delivered his State of the Union address to an American public increasingly skeptical that he can help ease their economic pain. His influence on Capitol Hill, while never robust, has all but vanished. He knows his historic fate is largely out of his control.

Obama is the fourth of the last five presidents to serve second terms. Like Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush before him, Obama tried to write his own history by promoting signature policies and themes that were part of their election mandates.

Obama’s pitch was a plea for a more sound, more equitable economy. Corporations prosper, he said, yet “inequality has deepened.”

He urged civility and common purpose.

“I believe this can be a breakthrough year for America. After five years of grit and determined effort, the United States is better positioned for the 21st century than any other nation on Earth,” Obama said.

But he also got tough: If Congress won’t act, he said, he will.

“So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do,” Obama pledged.

Obama announced executive action to raise the minimum wage for people working on new federal contracts to $10.10. Congress would likely not have agreed.

He’s also bypassing Congress to allow people to have new “starter” retirement savings accounts.

Such actions probably will chill further his relations with a Congress where Republicans already lead the House of Representatives and the Senate’s center-left Democrats are inching away from a president highly unpopular in their states.

He’s going to have trouble corralling those Democrats from more conservative states, who shudder at the prospect of defending the 2010 health care law they once supported. And Obama’s call for more help for the poor is unlikely to be a big help, either.Republicans need a net gain of six seats to win control of the Senate, and they see tremendous opportunity in Arkansas, Louisiana, North Carolina, Alaska, Montana and West Virginia, all seats now held by Democrats.

Obama, the Republicans argued Tuesday, is desperate and overreaching. “House Republicans will continue to look closely at whether the president is faithfully executing the laws, as he took an oath to do,” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Obama’s pitch Tuesday was a plea to finish the job, a standard State of the Union device at this stage of a presidency.

George W. Bush gave upbeat accounts of the war in Iraq in 2006. Bill Clinton heralded a new “third way” to govern and pledged to preside over a smaller, more innovative government. Ronald Reagan saw a “rising America,” fueled by a strong economy and worldwide respect.

None of these attempts to give their presidencies new momentum worked. Iraq remained a quagmire. Reagan would get ensnared in the Iran-contra scandal by the end of the year.

On the day before Clinton gave his address, he told reporters, “I did not have sexual relations” with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky. He didn’t mention the scandal. By the end of the year, he had been impeached.

History strongly suggests Obama’s fate is hard to predict and could even move his way. He could rebound, as Reagan and Clinton did. The Syrian conflict could be resolved with American help. The economy could boom. Obamacare could prove popular — and the president emphasized that he’s hardly about to stop touting that cause.

“I don’t expect to convince my Republican friends on the merits of this law. But I know that the American people aren’t interested in refighting old battles,” he said.

Even without such a rosy scenario, Obama could benefit from a different kind of sixth-year hitch: a fractured opposition. Democrats were on the march in 1986 and won control of the Senate. Republicans were eager to tar Clinton in the Lewinsky scandal in 1998, and Democrats used growing disdain for the war in Iraq to win control of Congress in 2006.

This year, Republicans remain divided between grass-roots tea party conservatives, who abhor compromise, and establishment types willing to moderate their views to woo swing voters. The party is struggling to speak with one voice on a host of big issues, including immigration, federal spending and debt ceiling limits. It’s not unified on whether to extend emergency jobless benefits, which expired at the end of last month.

“I’m also convinced we can help Americans return to the workforce faster by reforming unemployment insurance so that it’s more effective in today’s economy,” Obama said. “But first, this Congress needs to restore the unemployment insurance you just let expire for 1.6 million people.”

Obama’s mission Tuesday, though, was not to urge patience with history but to help rewrite it. So he joined past presidents by trying to paint himself as a visionary nearing the end of an eight-year mission.

“Rarely have Americans lived through so much change, in so many ways, in so short a time,” Clinton declared in 1998.

“Far from being a hopeless dream, the advance of freedom is the great story of our time,” Bush told the nation in 2006.

Obama, too, got lofty.

What Americans want, he said, is “for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations. And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all — the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead.”

Probably no one disagreed with that. Then again, those words could have been uttered by Bush, Reagan or Clinton, too.

———

By David Lightman - McClatchy Washington Bureau (MCT)

©2014 McClatchy Washington Bureau

Visit the McClatchy Washington Bureau at www.mcclatchydc.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Comments

rbenn

democrat marxist barack hussein obama is a chronic Liar with a narrative to destroy the American Dream, His actions and words prove it. If you think differently please go look in a mirror and say to yourself “I’m a useful idiot, I am codependent and I’m easily manipulated. I have no morals or values and I’m pretty dumb down. I am the problem with America and I will be held responsible some day for my actions”

swiss cheese kat's picture
swiss cheese kat

Like.

vicariouslyAlive

now, i'm not one of Obama's biggest fans, but there's on thing we have to look at and remember. Obama is only a single part of the whole problem. he's the face of it, a poster child, a single point to blame, but he isn't the whole problem.

the problem is the system. the system was doomed to fail since they decimated the gold standard and backed our money with imaginary numbers. the systems has been failing since big business started shipping jobs over seas. the system has been failing since we started allowing people to survive that serve no general purpose. all of these problems have been around since the man in charge was a child. these problems began way before any of us knew the possible consequences.

i think it's time some of you people that are foolish enough to believe that the power of this nation is truly determined by a single man wake the hell up.

we allow our nation to be run by the majority vote. in Obama's election we see the problem with this system of election. just think for a moment how dumb the average american is, and now realize there are 150,000,000+ people less educated than that, and all it takes is one misguided vote from the more educated to sway the balance of power. uneducated people that ae easily swayed by propaganda and commercialism determine the outcome of this nation, and i see that as a problem. the majority vote only works when the people voting are educated enough to understand the consequences of their vote... obama's election, you know, where he preyed upon the uneducated folk of large cities and bought their votes with free phones and money, yeah, that's someone preying on the ignorant and poor.

if we are going to survive as a nation we need to take the power away from not only those that abuse it, but from the masses of ignorant people that vote the abusers into power.

also, not allowing anyone with ties to big business the ability to run for government office would be a smart move. it'd insure that the interest of the people come before the interest of big business... but that's just a me thing.

to think that obama or bush or any president of the future is the onlly problem and bickering about it only shows your ignorance of how the system works.

as it was said in the satirical work of the Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy, "the president has no real power, he only serves as a distraction from those that do."

Contango

Re: "'starter' retirement savings accounts"

Pres. Obama:

"MyRA guarantees a decent return with no risk of losing what you put in."

More like a lousy return that doesn't keep up inflation.

44846GWP

Winnie, did you watch the speach this year, or just the Cliff notes, slanted on Fox "news"??

Contango

Re: "did you watch the speach this year"

"speach"?

Do you know how to spell? Lmao!!!

Listened on whitehouse.gov and read transcript. You?

tipper

Rbenn You are absolutely correct, great comment, wish more people would understand,

Kottage Kat

rbenn
Spot on

starryeyes83

All politicians LIE, that's what they DO.

Regardless of party.

arnmcrmn

What I find comical is that this was yet another Obama speech filled with so much hot air that the global warming advocates should be completely outraged. Federal minimum wage hike? Name one federal worker making minimum wage? It's all smoke and mirrors as usual. What everyone should find disturbing on all levels is that we have a president who consistently sidesteps our constitution and admits to it, when he feels the need to, steps over congress when they don't full agree with him and does this all so arrogantly that his picture is now in Webster's under that word. I'm all for a minimum wage increase but it has to be done gradually, not overnight because a lot of mom and pap and small business can't afford a 3 dollar an hour hike. Doing so will do nothing but cause inflation. What I also find comical is that under Obama, people have become richer and faster than ever before and that the top 7 richest leaders of our country are democrats! His words reek of arrogance, scare tactics and hypocrisy. But hey, as long as he keeps his agendas rolling to allow illegals into this country with a free pass and do whatever he can to take 2nd amendment rights away, the democrat followers with fall in love and in line. By the way, I didn't even have to watch this hot air balloon speech, I knew what he was going to say.

Contango

Read the following:

"Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better.

But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled.

The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by; let alone to get ahead. And too many still aren't working at all."

- Pres. Obama, SOTU, 2014

He accurately described the failure of his past five yrs. in office.

swiss cheese kat's picture
swiss cheese kat

Like.

arnmcrmn

He isn't smart enough to realize he just stepped on his own tail.

thinkagain's picture
thinkagain

Any “hope and change” that this President could sit down and talk with all members of Congress to develop a plan is over. Because to do this he would have to shed his arrogance and subjugate his ego.

Poverty, ignorance and handouts are the new liberal tools to maintain their base. They can't maintain power without it.

It never ceases to amaze, just how ignorant and sheep-like Democrats can be.

swiss cheese kat's picture
swiss cheese kat

Like.

JACKEL

Kat, read Rbenn, says most of it. Still at war in Afganistan,killed Ambassador in Egypt on purpose .Made this country look like a third world country to the rest of the world. Created more debt than all rest combined. Now has joined the ranks of The Most Famous Cheaters of all,Ike,JFK,FDR,and Slick Willy !This comment section isn't large enough to state all the lies .He has definitely made a place in history, right next to the peanut farmer. Now if you think this bias because of race or politics, it is not. After watching "Loose Change" I am convinced 911 was a Government hit by The Bush Adm. primarily engineered by Cheney !

swiss cheese kat's picture
swiss cheese kat

RBenn hit the nail on the head, and you did a very good job too. The one and only thing 0-bama has accomplished is FAILURE.

I watched "Loose Change" several times but did not come to the same conclusion as you did. However, "Loose Change" did ask many relevant questions which do not appear to be in the 911 report.

44846GWP

lol lol lol!!! Ok.

rbenn

But the highlight of the night was Obama getting a standing ovation from Democrats for promising to violate the Constitution; ignore checks and balances; and bypass the people, Congress, and the law of the land to pass radical and extreme parts of his agenda by Executive orders. Save that video of Democrats cheering wildly for Obama to break the law- it will make for one heck of a GOP television advertising campaign this Fall. I’d be sure to show them cheering in slow motion.

Wayne Root, author

arnmcrmn

If this isn't Hitler, Castro and any other dictator in the history of this planet standing right before our eyes, then he must be the anti-Christ.

methodman

So says the Shepherd.

Truthseeker

Reagan uses executive orders over 350 times, and that's just fine. Obama says he's going to do the same thing and all the knuckle dragging, mouth breathers say he's breaking the law and violating the constitution. Dumb.

Windy

The difference is that other presidents did it for what was in the best interest for the COUNTRY. Obama has done it over 900 times for purely POLITICAL reasons. Now that's dumb!

Really are you ...

How many times did Boehner stand and applaud? I saw 3 times. 1 was when the president recognized where he came from. 2 was when the president said "gold." 3 Showed he actually had some sort of emotions, when the president recognized the injured Army SFC Ranger. Injured by a massive IED in Afghanistan. Boehner had that same emotionless head cantered to the left look on his face for pretty much the whole speech. When the cameras scanned the chamber, did you see the people they zoned in on? You have my undivided attention, and now you don't. Lol.

Unless, common, people take personal initiative to make things happen for the better, nothing is going to change.

JACKEL

Boehner is a Benedict Arnold !

rogerthat

The main fault of Obama's speech was his failure to call out the GOP as the anti-American traitors that they are. They systematically oppose anything that would help Americans. Democrats are too wimpy to do anything about it.

rickross2

Or, they understand the ramifications of what he wants to do better than Barry, or yourself for that matter, do. For him to go above congress and side-step the Constitution is un-American and illegal. Now go brush your teeth cause you're talkin $hit.

arnmcrmn

@rogerthat. Wow, really? 99 weeks of unemployment ring a bell? How about welfare and medicaid that eats up nearly 75% of our national budget each year? When is enough enough in your books? When every rich person has everything taken away from them? Oh thats right, they already foot most of the bill as it stands right now anyhow.

Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country. Famous last lost words.

rogerthat

Really? The military "loses" more than enough money to pay for all the welfare and medicaid. So it looks like you support giving $8 million a day to Israel rather than feeding and caring for Americans. How about the billions in subsidies to foreign owned oil companies but cutting aid for veterans? That is GOP's doing and Obama hasn't stopped it.

rbenn

Anti American? WTH are you talking about? Maybe conservatives are trying to prevent bad policy. Obamacare is a disaster but you leg humping libs refuse to see that. Your president has bombed American citizens which he opposed while campaigning for office, he also said raising the debt ceiling was unpatriotic, shall I go on? Whats amusing is you libs want all these social programs but yet how in the hell we supposed to pay for them? Jobs are in the tank although he said 8 million were created which I find to be BS, as pretty much anything this clown says. So go ahead and be a mushroom stay in the dark and keep getting fed this liars BS. People like you are the problem, your just too damn stupid to realize it.

Pages