Last Updated:September 16 @ 07:27 am

Emboldened and ready for battle

By USA Today

In the State of the Union speech launching his second term, it was Barack Obama 2.0.

President Obama's hair was visibly grayer than at his first speech in the House chamber four years ago. His tone was more combative. His rhetoric drew sharper lines.

He has the scars of four tumultuous years in office and the credential of having won re-election. During last year's election and especially since November's victory, Obama has been emboldened on both the battles he chooses and the tactics he uses. Voters had a stark choice on the 2012 ballot, he's noted; they chose him.

"The American people don't expect government to solve every problem," he said near the start of his hour-long speech. "They don't expect those of us in this chamber to agree on every issue -- but they do expect us to put the nation's interests before party. They do expect us to forge reasonable compromise where we can."

The laundry list of goals Obama outlined had the sweep of a first term. He said it was critical to address climate change, an issue he sidelined after his cap-and-trade proposal went nowhere in his first year in office. (If Congress won't act, he said, he'd look for executive actions.) In an emotional close, he added gun control to his priorities in the wake of the December shooting rampage in Newtown, Conn.

He urged action to overhaul immigration, expand preschool education programs, spur manufacturing and invest in clean energy. He endorsed an increase in the minimum wage, unveiled an initiative to bolster protections for the nation's cybersystems and created a commission to study voting problems.

And as he had in each State of the Union speech since taking office during a financial freefall, he called for government action to help create jobs and rebuild the middle class. "We have cleared away the rubble of crisis," he said. Then he added, "It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country, the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead."

The State of the Union speech demonstrated that Obama's muscular inaugural address signaled a change in his administration. In both speeches, he embraced a more openly activist government and confrontational style. He feels empowered by his re-election, advisers say, and liberated from running for office again. He's also applying lessons from the past few frustrating years.

The question ahead is whether Obama's new strategy, which relies less on persuading members of Congress than pressuring them with the force of public opinion, will succeed in passing major legislation or simply create a new recipe for gridlock.

That could be tested almost immediately, on the looming battle over automatic spending cuts scheduled to go into effect on March 1. Obama said the "sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts" would jeopardize military readiness and slow the economic recovery. He said he would support "modest" steps to save money in Medicare but also called for changes in the tax code that would hit "the well-off and well-connected."

Republican leaders have flatly ruled out more revenue, however, noting that tax hikes on top earners were part of a deal struck to avert the so-called fiscal cliff at the beginning of the year. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, in the formal Republican response, accused Obama of having an "obsession" about raising taxes.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, in a response delivered for the conservative Tea Party movement, accused both parties of being "guilty of spending too much, of protecting their sacred cows, of backroom deals in which everyone up here wins, but every taxpayer loses."

There was an emotional refrain when Obama cited the stories of those in the visitors' gallery touched by gun violence, including the parents of a 15-year-old girl who had been shot and killed in Chicago a week after performing in events here for Obama's inauguration.

He called background checks for gun buyers a "common sense reform" and mentioned other ideas without specifically endorsing them. "Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress," he said. To rising applause from Democrats in the hall, he repeated the names of people and places associated with iconic shooting rampages.

"Gabby Giffords deserves a vote," he said of the former Arizona congresswoman, seated in the chamber's gallery. "The families of Newtown deserve a vote."

The president also called on Congress to pass a comprehensive immigration bill that, among other things, would provide a path for "earned citizenship" for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States. "Let's get this done," he said. Members of both parties rose to applaud that. On that issue, there may be common ground with Republicans eager to repair frayed ties with Hispanic voters.

On most fronts, though, Obama's relationship with GOP leaders has soured enough that compromise seems distant. House Speaker John Boehner, seated just behind the president, looked pained through much of the speech. He and Republicans in the hall mostly sat on their hands as Obama ran through proposals on addressing climate change, on raising the minimum wage, on creating joint government-business manufacturing hubs.

Still, the president's prospects have been boosted by the divisions within his opposition, including sniping between establishment Republicans and the conservative Tea Party movement.

Also fueling the president's sense of urgency is the certainty that political attention at some point will shift to the 2016 campaign and the battle to succeed him. "Generally speaking," said Neera Tanden, a former Obama adviser who now heads the Center for American Progress, "we have a good year to get things done."

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(c) Copyright 2013 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co. Inc.

A service of YellowBrix, Inc.

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16 Comments

  1. mcrankComment by mcrank
    February 13, 2013 @ 6:42 am

    Check out the latest Gallup Poll, O—we aren’t in the mood for four more years of your idiocy either.

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    • susieqComment by susieq
      February 13, 2013 @ 11:33 am

      Impeach Obama – That is the solution.

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      Rating: 4.7/5 (14 votes cast)
    • MorganComment by Morgan
      February 13, 2013 @ 3:59 pm

      If anyone thinks that I would waste one second listening to a rehash of the same old tired talking points we have heard from Obama for the last four years, they are sadly mistaken. I don’t even have to listen to know that he wants to spend more money on “green” energy, more money on education, infrastructure, let all the illegals stay here without any problem, raise taxes on the rich, regulate everyone else out of their shoes.

      Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll sit and read my Bible for that hour and really get some benefit.

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  2. lynninvaComment by lynninva
    February 13, 2013 @ 9:01 am

    The only thing Obama is about is more government, bigger government…more spending, bigger spending. He is supposed to be a representative of ALL the people, not just his special interests. Do you think he gives a whit about the middle class? If he did, he would stop all the regulations and government interference and give the people the freedom to grow and expand on their own. His policies will be the downfall of us all.

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    • buckeeComment by buckee
      February 13, 2013 @ 1:12 pm

      Bingo!

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  3. capricorn1Comment by capricorn1
    February 13, 2013 @ 9:37 am

    the furher has spoken,he is on his way to never leaving the whitehouse,he will start a full fleged war on carbon emissions and oil,nat gas.get ready for no air conditioning and rolling blackouts,his rise to power is errie to adolph hitlers,he has lied,fabricated,blamed others,and has the propagandist in the media to help him.and he is israeli hater.

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  4. odayterrenceComment by odayterrence
    February 13, 2013 @ 9:56 am

    Obama’s concept of “reasonable compromise” is the other person shutting up and doing what Obama tells him to do.

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    Rating: 4.8/5 (20 votes cast)
  5. JDZComment by JDZ
    February 13, 2013 @ 10:20 am

    Just more of the same liberal policies that are slowly taking our country down. President Obama is the epitome of the far left political activist and community organizer now operating at the national level. He continues to keep things stirred up and dysfunctional within our federal government as he stubbornly sticks to his big government policies that are not working. It is the attitude of an egocentric and inept leader who just wants his way or the highway which is the behavior of someone who lacks the leadership abilities required of an effective POTUS. His leadership behavior is typical of how dictators work who demand submission to their will and could care less about compromise in his policies or desires.

    So the second term of Barack Obama is not going to be good for the country at large as he will be more focused on how to force his will on the citizens of our country through executive orders coupled with cabinet level policy and regulative maneuvers. He is going to continue to challenge anyone who attempts to stop him from implementing his policies as he skirts around our Constitution and bypasses Congress.

    This man needs a major smackdown and brought back to reality but I do not see enough of our elected officials with the guts to take on this guy and his radical minions with actions that will slow him down. As long as he continues to force himself on our country and get away with it, he is going to continue his dismantling of our American system and culture as he attempts to create his dream of some perverted vision of the utopian socialist state run by a behemoth nanny state government.

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    • rzraickComment by rzraick
      February 14, 2013 @ 8:23 am

      “Just more of the same liberal policies that are slowly taking our country down.”

      Not all that slowly. Watch as things start spiraling down faster. The poop is going to hit the fan. He is going to solve all our problems by spending money which he does not have.

      And he is going to get that money in two ways. One is to increase taxes. He say only on the rich, but we have already seen how that worked out. Every working person saw a decrease in take home pay. Much of his base who is made up of people on food stamps and without jobs of course did not feel the bite.

      The second way will be to borrow fiat currency from the FED. This will do two things. One is to increase the national debt, a debt which will be paid not only by futere generations, but by this generation. The second is that all prices will go up. Food, gas, electricity, and just about everything else.

      This is the inescapable hidden tax on everyone which has the most negative consequences on older retired people living on a fixed income, and it is very hard on the poor, which is a growing class as the middle class is driven into poverty.

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  6. my04301933Comment by my04301933
    February 13, 2013 @ 10:37 am

    OUR GREATEST CONCERN as of now, is that our AMERICA is about to be overturned as we know it….

    And that we shall become a dictatorship gradually…

    …WITHIN THESE NEXT 4 YEARS…from within…

    And that we IGNORE THE SIGNS!

    And that we just ***** and moan, even here in these forums…

    And once off our chest we drop the issue and move on to the next ones…

    YOU KNOW IT and I KNOW IT!

    Obama is doing just what all dictators have done…

    …first turning the country into a socialist, dependent mentality…( denying jobs, by raising taxes, by overspending, by handing our freebies etc)…

    …and from there, by FABRICATING a national emergency…

    …then enlisting his Media Propaganda demons to insight, arouse, and frighten the people,…

    …and then, to come to our country’s aid, he declares martial laws that attack our current freedoms (for the sake of national security…only temporary…yeah, sure!)…

    …in return, for protection from the threat, we will have offered him our America!

    …which by then is a temporary militant, and dictatorial government…

    …until the national threat ends of course…

    …which is never….because he keeps the fires burning, fanning them, to keep the threat alive.

    But what do I know? I’m just an 80 year old fart…but from my rocking chair on my front porch,

    …I shall watch you know-it-all youngsters…

    …bow to Obama as he passes in review in a black limo,

    …kiss his back side as he lowers it off his shoulders so your lips can reach it…

    …and as your children, with Brown Shirts on, run along side of his limo…they

    …wave a New flag with his picture on it…

    …shouting with glee “Our Obama, Our Obama, our only lord, our only savior!”

    SO, JUST DO NOTHING…

    …hold out your hands so you can get your freebies…

    …after all, you’ve paid for them…

    with your children and your country.

    (the rest of us will head to the mountains in Montana…and figure out what can be done to save our AMERICA…both from you free loaders and from Obama)

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  7. powertothepeopleComment by powertothepeople
    February 13, 2013 @ 11:54 am

    Obozo 4.0 spoke and the MSM shuttered in his presence. Their savior laid out the new and improved road map to the complete remaking of the nation once known as the United States of America!

    While his buddy Buffett and Soros are dumping their investments in the US faster than a speeding bullet (oh, guess I was not supposed to say that, Obozo triples down on the spend everything we don’t have yet because it has to be better!

    The destroyer made it clear he will not back off and will not change course. The question is…will the GOP and any sensible Demorats deny him the money he demands to finish us off?

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  8. bob8585Comment by Robert
    February 13, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

    I thought it would have been great if House Speaker John Boehner would have jumped up half way through Obama’s speech and shouted “BINGO! I got the cover all.”

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  9. newrepublicanComment by newrepublican
    February 13, 2013 @ 1:04 pm

    “Obama said the “sudden, harsh, arbitrary cuts” would jeopardize military readiness and slow the economic recovery.”

    Hooooold on there Babalouie! When sequestration passed Obama defied the LAW he had just signed and ordered all the services to ignore the LAW and not make plans for an orderly reduction in the bureacracy … now we are suppoed to be concerned about the chaos and disorder? Believe me I have confounded feelings about this issue with two sons in the Armed Forces, one who is a flier and knows his level of training will be diminished. In the end we MUST CUT SPENDING in a way that hurts as much as most all people felt the pain these past four years of the Obama Presidency!

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  10. BillzillaComment by Billzilla
    February 13, 2013 @ 1:45 pm

    “Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress,” he said. To rising applause from Democrats in the hall, he repeated the names of people and places associated with iconic shooting rampages.”

    What about us honest citizens who pay our taxes and bills; do we deserve a vote too? How about stats on how many lives were saved, or crimes prevented because an armed, honest citizen took action? Why won’t the media show those figures? Would it be better in the eyes of our “glorious leader” if we all became victims, and suffered too?

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    • powertothepeopleComment by powertothepeople
      February 13, 2013 @ 2:05 pm

      So true…when does the honest, hardworking taxpaying citizen get noticed by anyone in the federal government other than just a taxpayer…sorry, “revenue generator”.

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  11. jenerseaComment by jenersea
    February 13, 2013 @ 1:48 pm

    Of course, he feels more enboldened he knows he faces a do nothing GOP. Why should he feel it will be anymore different than it was the past 4 years with them? Who is going to stop him? GOP has not caught up and has no guts to fight. Talk is cheap from them, with no guts Boehner leading the pack.

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    Rating: 4.3/5 (4 votes cast)

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