Compared to his State of the Union speech a year ago, President Obama seemed almost humble, polite, somewhat bipartisan and he in stealth fashion switched some of his positions nearly 180 degrees. He should also be congratulated on not insulting the visiting members of the Supreme Court. But that's a pretty low bar all the way around when you consider it. And honestly, what else could he do?
What you saw was a presidential mea culpa, at least as strong of one as you will get from the current administration, and that wasn't all bad.
His best moment came early on: "What comes of this moment is up to us. What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow."
The devil will be in the details on most of what the president had to say tonight, but there is no denying the need for Americans to work together. What many may feel however is that we will need to work against the inclination to spend more
His most hypocritical: "Thanks to the tax cuts we passed, Americans’ paychecks are a little bigger today."
These were tax cuts he opposed up until the very final moment when it became clear he had no real choice but to pass, largely because of an informed electorate. But the truth was he had desired to eliminate those cuts since his days on the campaign trail.
His most sincere: "The world has changed."
As was evidenced in large measure by the weakened tone and voice of the chief executive.
His most patriotic: "What’s more, we are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea – the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny."
President Obama has struggled in past speeches with the ability to pronounce overtly patriotic rhetoric, but this line, one of the best of the speech genuinely summarizes the goals of the founders and would have resonated with the likes of past Presidents Reagan, Kennedy. Even Bush.
His most honest: "We need to take responsibility for our deficit, and reform our government."
At least he's now on the record. He realizes the deficit is voters' number one anxiety and he will bear great responsibility if he fails to act.
His most ridiculous: "This is our generation’s Sputnik moment."
This analogy was bad from the start. "Sputnik" was the failed first effort of the Soviets. Americans should not, and will not want a 'Sputnik moment'."
His most tired: "We’ll invest in... especially clean energy technology"
Will he relaunch a cap-and-trade pursuit? It appears as though these types of ideas were roundly defeated in November.
His most lame: "I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re (the oil companies) doing just fine on their own."
Bleh... this and his other "funny" moment later in the speech came off terribly weak.
His most surprising: "Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal, and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all – and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen."
This position isn't terribly different from former President George W. Bush's. The shift for Obama was to publicly support nuclear and coal.
His most pro-business: "Use the savings to lower the corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years – without adding to our deficit."
To be honest this is the most aggressive posture President Obama has had towards small businesses in all of his public life. This type of mindset actually WILL help this stagnant economy.
His most dishonest: "We passed reform that finally prevents the health insurance industry from exploiting patients."
His most honest: "We have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable."
His cheesiest: "Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may feel like you’re flying high at first, but it won’t take long before you’ll feel the impact."
His least costly bone thrown to Republicans: "I’m willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year: medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits."
His first promise he will likely break: "If a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it."
In reality, unemployment continues to hover around 10%, and in the plans laid out in tonight's address nothing strongly addressed this issue. Reducing the burden of the new health care bill on new businesses, and reducing the impact of regulation on small businesses are two items that the president was allowed to escape scrutiny of tonight, but there is no doubt that they must be addressed.
We can do big things Mr. President. But for right now, because of the excesses of your first two years, and because of the refusal by the old Congresses to keep themselves in check...
At this time...
It is more important, to do the hard things!
Kevin McCullough is the nationally syndicated host of "The Kevin McCullough Show" weekdays (7-9am EST) & "Baldwin/McCullough Radio" Saturdays (9-11pm EST) on 265 stations. His newest hardcover from Thomas Nelson Publishers, "No He Can't: How Barack Obama is Dismantling Hope and Change" hits streets March 2011.