A Washington Post headline said it best, "The Audacity of Nope." That of course is a take off on the title of President Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope. President Obama delivered a stirring State of the Union Address - one of the best ones I have heard. But, it was long - running nearly 75 minutes. In all that time, only 9 minutes was devoted to the terrorism threat and to the draining, deadly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Washington Post went onto say, "Americans are almost as opposed to change as they are to the status quo..they know what they don't like - everything."
President Obama tried to reach out to Republicans, Independents, and even Democrats who oppose his ambitious programs. He urged them to submit their own suggestions to improve the economy, create jobs, and protect America and its friends from those who want to destroy them. So far, there has been criticism from many quarters, but no earth shaking solutions.
The President shifted the focus of the speech from health care reform to jobs and the economy. With a multi-trillion dollar debt, and more than one in ten Americans out of work, those are some of the major priorities. But he said he would not give up on health care reform, and will fight for it in the future.
On other issues, President Obama repeated his pledge to have American combat troops out of Iraq by August. In his words, "this war is ending, and all of our troops are coming home." He added, "In Afghanistan, we are increasing our troops and training Afghan security forces so they can begin to take the lead in July of 2011, and our troops can begin to come home." The President called the threat of nuclear weapons "the greatest danger." The US is hosting a nuclear security summit at the end of April, and may soon impose tougher sanctions on Iran for its possible development of nuclear weapons. The US is watching North Korea closely for the same reason.
On the other hand, President Obama received a standing ovation from Republicans, and others, as he proposed expanded nuclear energy. But, the problem of nuclear waste has not been resolved. The President also vowed to expand American exports to the rest of the world, and improve the world trade situation in general. He did not dwell on the Israeli-Palestinian crises, which has always consumed so much energy. But, the next day, in Florida, he repeated his commitment to Israel's security and to a two state solution, comprised of a peaceful Israel and Palestine. He said both sides will have to make sacrifices to resolve the issues.
On military matters, he vowed to end the divisive, "don't ask, don't tell policy." In his words, "I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are."
He also vowed to give more money to veterans and the military families, and he will press for equal pay for women.
All and all, it was an energetic effort by the President. He followed it with a town hall in Florida, and a discourse with Republicans at their conference in Baltimore. Many more visits and speeches are planned. The divisions persist, and his ambitious programs may not pass. Democrats may ignore his advice, and may "run for the hills." More Republicans may win seats in November. But, the Nation is still likely to survive, and maybe, the job and economic pictures will improve. That only leaves war, terrorism, natural disasters, and the massive debt to cope with.
Connie Lawn, in Washington
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