President Obama was significantly more combative, audacious and partisan in this State of the Union address than in previous years.
He repeatedly backed policies that most Americans find popular -- but that Republicans oppose -- continuing to drive a wedge into his opposition. At the same time, he sought to fire up the Democratic base as he readies a major congressional push to solidify his legislative legacy. And if Congress won't act, he made clear than many of his proposals could be done -- or at least started -- by executive action.
One example was climate change. Obama suggested the EPA could regulate carbon emissions without new legislation that might never get out of the House or Senate. But it's something his liberal base has been waiting four years to hear.
Obama was also particularly sure to tie the nation's repeated budget crises firmly around the neck of Republicans. He indicated he was ready to compromise but that he would not sacrifice investments in the middle class for the sole purpose of reducing the deficit. Obama also made sure to point out that nothing he proposed tonight would add a single penny to the national debt.
An emotional push for gun control topped off the president's speech. He repeatedly called for a vote on his proposed gun curbs. "They deserve a vote," he said as he named victims of gun violence.
But the biggest difference in this speech than those over the last four years is that Obama seems to recognize he'll get little help from congressional Republicans. Gone were the bipartisan platitudes. Gone were the olive branches to his rivals. Instead, Obama made clear he's ready for a fight.
Taegan D. Goddard is the founder of Political Wire, one of the earliest and most influential political web sites.
Goddard spent more than a decade as managing director and chief operating officer of a prominent investment firm in New York City. Previously, he was a policy adviser to a U.S. Senator and Governor.
Goddard is also co-author of You
Won - Now What? (Scribner, 1998), a political
management book hailed by prominent journalists and politicians from
both parties. In addition, Goddard's essays on politics and public
policy have appeared in dozens of newspapers across the country,
including the Washington Post, USA Today, Boston Globe, San Francisco
Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, Philadelphia Inquirer and Christian Science
Goddard earned degrees from Vassar College and Harvard University. He lives in New York with his wife and three sons.
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