President’s Muscle-Flexing SOTU

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In his next-to-last State of the Union, a revived and unmistakably ultradefiant President Barack Obama let loose a post-midterm-election liberation song on a chamber of fattened Republican majorities in the House and Senate.

Even with the somewhat humbled plea for “better politics” by the end of an hourlong speech, seemingly dire political realities were ignored for the night. There was little hint of scuttled legislative opportunities over the next two years. Instead, the president presented an ambitious populist remix, a “middle class economics” lyric and legacy counteraction to Reagan’s “trickle-down economics” that left congressional Republicans seething well after a flat, but pulled-it-off, response by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).

The president of the United States flexed. Free community college. A long-sought-after solid on child care. Individual tax cuts. Guaranteed health care. Higher wages and seven days of paid sick leave. This was, indeed, the we-can-get-with-that speech.

Nothing that sounded too good to be politically true appeared to be left out. A colorful, almost utopic, progressive goodie bag of essential items for middle-class entry and existence. Eager to “turn the page,” Obama set the tone for two interlocked goals: pushing a robust postrecession recovery that complements foundations for a post-war boom. “We are 15 years into this new century,” the president opened almost sermonlike. “Fifteen years that dawned with terror touching our shores; that unfolded with a new generation fighting two long and costly wars; that saw a vicious recession spread across our nation and the world. It has been, and still is, a hard time for many.”

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