Obama pushes forward

After a year in office, Obama shows new resolve, if no new direction.

President Obama has never had a problem delivering the right speech at the right time.
ThatâÄôs the talent, after all, that rocketed him from relative obscurity into the White House in the span of a few short years. His first State of the Union address this week was no exception, though it felt a little familiar. Notably, the PresidentâÄôs first State of the Union address on Wednesday put jobs and the economy first. A long list of economic initiatives ought to please working families and fiscal conservatives alike. Perhaps too little too late, the President also made explicit the crucial link between health care reform âÄî projected by the Congressional Budget Office to save trillions of dollars âÄî and shrinking the national deficit. In his ongoing attempt to alter the tone of American politics, Mr. Obama once again derided uncompromising partisanship and growing corporate influence in Washington âÄî issues that raise deep, genuine, and justified anger in Americans âÄî without addressing the systemic flaws that nourish them. Both trends diminish the efficacy of our democracy, yet Mr. Obama made no mention of legislative solutions, like national campaign finance reform or limiting the filibuster. When it comes to amplifying and empowering the voices of American voters, he offered the country a paint job when what it needs is an engine overhaul. Mr. Obama seems to understand all too well the misfortune that his first year in office was characterized by intractable political challenges and unpopular necessities. In many ways he has yet to dig into his campaign agenda, though itâÄôs not overstating things to say that his administration may have kept this country from falling apart last year, a time when it very well could have. Refreshingly, the President also dwelled at some length on sobering mistakes and lessons learned from his first year in office. It is good for us to remember that every leader must be judged relative to the unique challenges of his or her time in office. Though he may not have made history in 2009, surely Mr. Obama was dealt the most formidable opening hand of any president in generations. It is also important that he has reaffirmed his willingness to listen and adapt to the priorities of the American people, and his plans for the coming years are laudably ambitious. It remains to be seen, however, whether this president will yet fulfill the promise of audacity that swept him into office. Michael Pursell welcomes comments at [email protected]