President Obama gave more of a campaign speech than a governing address Tuesday night when he delivered his State of the Union message.
Rather than offer any concrete prescriptions for the big issues the country faces, Mr. Obama offered soothing rhetoric and well-tested phrases (mentioning "jobs" 31 times compared to last year's 29 mentions) and a five year freeze on non-security discretionary spending, two years longer than the three year freeze he called for in last year's State of the Union but never implemented.
Today's visit to the critical battleground state of Wisconsin to herald "green energy" jobs carries possible benefits and dangers. While it helps show the president is engaged with job creators, it's unclear how enthusiastic Americans are for spending more borrowed money to subsidize an industry favored by the White House that makes up a infinitesimal part of the country's economy.
Tuesday's speech was filled with rhetorical flourishes that raise questions about the president's seriousness and his slipperiness. Witness his offer to back the GOP on medical liability reform. He's made that offer before: in his July 2009 address on health care to the Joint Session of Congress.
His declaration of support for legal reform during that address brought Republican Senators and Congressmen to their feet cheering. A couple of weeks later, the White House sent forward its proposal: a small pot of money for states to run demonstration projects on increasing patient safety. There was one hitch: if a state had passed medical liability reform, it couldn't apply for the funds.
If Mr. Obama fails to send a serious liability reform measure to Congress soon, Americans will have good cause to assume once again the president didn't mean what he said.
Karl Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush. He is a Fox News contributor and author of "Courage and Consequence" (Threshold Editions, 2010).