Pro-con: Did Obama’s speech offer positive path?

Americans who have become weary of Washington’s endless battles over spending and taxes – and the stagnating economy that stalemate has produced – got a chance to hear about a different path on Tuesday night. President Obama’s message in the State of the Union address was clear: It doesn’t have to be this way. The country doesn’t have to get bogged down by demands for endless austerity and government contraction. It doesn’t have to defer investments in education and public works. The poor don’t have to remain on society’s lower rungs, and the middle class can aspire to do better. Obama said his proposals to bring about growth with government action would not have to raise the deficit. What is required to move the country forward is political will, which has been missing for too long. While many of the president’s proposals were familiar, and will probably be snuffed out by politics, his speech explained to a wide audience what could be achieved if there were even a minimal consensus in Washington. – New York Times

The big question of President Obama’s second term is whether he wants to forge bipartisan compromises in the next two years, or whether he wants to spend these years campaigning against Republicans to regain Democratic control of the House in 2014 and then finish his presidency with another liberal crescendo. Judging by his inaugural address and Tuesday night’s State of the Union, we’re guessing he’s going for Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Obama’s second inaugural was a clarion call to “collective action,” as he put it, and Tuesday’s speech showed what he thinks that should mean in practice. “The American people don’t expect government to solve every problem,” he said, while proceeding to offer a new government program to solve every problem. It was what a Democratic president might expect to pass in a liberal Democratic Congress. It was not an olive branch for bipartisan deal-making with the House GOP. In its ambition and partisan framing, the agenda sounded like the opening bell in the 2014 congressional campaign. – Wall Street Journal