Obama tacks to the middle

The State of the Union address marked a new direction for the White House: the political center.

Well, itâÄôs been just more than one year since Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United State of America. According to Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, âÄúIt’s an anniversary of types, but I don’t see that a lot of people are ultimately focused on marking the first year.âÄù The lackluster assessment didnâÄôt stop President Obama from invoking conciliatory progress in the State of the Union Address Wednesday night. Beyond routine overtures of American exceptionalism, sincere calls for bipartisanship, a reinvigoration of faded prospects for health care reform and a call for âÄúcomprehensive energy and climateâÄù legislation, the foundation of the PresidentâÄôs speech regarded efforts to solve the nationâÄôs economic ills. Critics may be right to question the PresidentâÄôs hypocrisies, like âÄúworking to lift the value of a familyâÄôsâĦhome,âÄù while he also dubiously pins the root of our crisis âÄúon a housing bubble and financial speculation.âÄù Our economy has undoubtedly taken a toll on the PresidentâÄôs approval rating. At certain points, one couldnâÄôt help but feel for the guy: âÄúI didn’t take on health care because it was good politics.âÄù Indeed, the speech was set against a backdrop of dissent. The President is too moderate for the left, disillusioned with a failed bid for single-payer health insurance and redoubled war overseas. The right ridicules Obama as too extreme, a big-spending bureaucrat-in-chief. But on the heel of Scott BrownâÄôs tide-turning Senate victory, the PresidentâÄôs address revealed his willingness to fill the role of the pragmatic centrist, and if we allow him, it may be the most promising political development our nation has seen in decades. Parts of the jobs bill he proposed almost seemed written by George W. Bush: âÄúa new small business tax credit,âÄù the elimination of âÄúall capital gains taxes on small business investment,âÄù and thatâÄôs not a bad thing. Neither is the PresidentâÄôs willingness to make âÄútough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development.âÄù In ourselves and in Washington, we desperately need compromise, the lifeblood of bipartisanship, and in turn, the lifeblood of progress. Uniquely powerful were the segments of ObamaâÄôs address where he sought to âÄúovercome the numbing weight of our politics.âÄù In the closing minutes, the President bled purple, âÄúIâÄôm speaking to both parties nowâĦ . Washington may think that saying anything about the other side, no matter how false, no matter how malicious, is just part of the game. But itâÄôs precisely such a politics that has stopped either party from helping the American people. Worse yet, itâÄôs sowing further division among our citizens, further distrust in our government.âÄù Our President is right: âÄúWhat frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day.âÄù The President was wise to invite Republican proposals on health reform and wiser yet to move to the middle. Republicans, for their part, would be wise to take the President up on the offer and suggest their own moderate proposals for health reform. Finally, if Scott BrownâÄôs recent blue state upset suggests anything, it suggests a willingness of American voters to upheave political expectations. Incumbents, red or blue, ready to stick to their guns tilâÄô 2012, would be wise to take a play from President ObamaâÄôs book. And the people would be wise to expect it. John Brown welcomes comments at [email protected]