Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Preview of Obama's State of the Union Address

This evening, the President of the United States will deliver his State of the Union address. In light of his declining popularity and legislative stalemate, President Obama is expected to scale back his climate change agenda and reach out to recession-hit families.

The President has much to contend with, including the panic of some Democratic members of Congress who are fearful of losing their seats in November's mid-term elections.

Obama may have inherited 2 wars and an economy on the verge of collapse, but other problems have developed on his watch. Obama is struggling under the weight of failing healthcare reform, Republican Scott Brown's surprise victory, growing estimates of stimulus spending and high unemployment.

Focusing on jobs and the economy is good politics and what could be more populist than changing Washington. If nothing else, it is safe to focus on job creation, deficit reduction and middle class families.

With Americans questioning the very existence of climate change and the unpopularity of legislation to address the problem, it may seem like downplaying global warming is the shrewdest move Obama can make. However, it could also be the worst decision he could make.

"I will not slow down in terms of going after the big problems that this country faces," Obama said to ABC News earlier this week. "The easiest thing for me to do...would be to go small bore, avoid controversy, just make sure that everybody's comfortable and we only propose things that don't threaten any special interests in Washington. If you do that, then you can get a boost in the poll numbers."

Obama was elected on a platform of change, but legislators continued with business as usual. "When I promised change, I didn't promise that somehow members of Congress weren't going to be looking to try to get a project in their district or help a hospital in their neighborhood," the President recently told Time Magazine.

"I'd rather be a really good one-term president than a mediocre two-term president," he told ABC News "You know, there is a tendency in Washington to believe our job description, of elected officials, is to get re-elected. That's not our job description," Obama said. "Our job description is to solve problems and to help people. I don't want to look back on my time here and say to myself all I was interested in was nurturing my own popularity."

This State of the Union address could be Obama's defining moment, the point in his Presidency where he delivers on his promise to lead.

If political realities succeed in estranging Obama from his ideals, his Presidency will be jeopardized alongside the green agenda. The President can either pander to the confusion of some Americans, or make climate and energy reform a priority for 2010. It is time for the President to lead the American people, not follow the polls.

Next: Live Coverage of Obama's State of the Union Address, Obama Renews His Commitments to Clean Energy and Small Business

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