By Lynn R. Mitchell
Tonight is the State of the Union address from President Barack Obama and, beginning over the weekend, his office began leaking tidbits for eager reporters. Some topics have raised eyebrows especially after the overwhelming Republican victories in November that put not only the U.S. House in Republican hands but also gave the GOP majority to the U.S. Senate.
Former U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has also heard the leaked policies and responded to some of the topics the president plans to address in tonight’s remarks. He has some hesitations about what the nation may hear and how some will respond to it, thoughts that he shared (see I fear Obama’s speech will inflame GOP).
Based on what I have heard so far, I fear tonight’s State of the Union will inflame and conflict with the new Republican Congress rather than bring about areas of agreement where both parties can work together to take the country forward.
But I am an optimist and remain hopeful that tonight, the nation will hear President Obama commit to get things done including pro-growth policies like the Trade Promotion Authority and revenue neutral business-tax reform by a date certain. He could also signal a push for major charter school expansion. These would all be healthy signs that he is committed to putting differences aside and is focused on where there is bipartisan agreement that can move the country forward.
Facing a new Republican Congress in 1995, Bill Clinton called for changing the way government worked, making “it smaller, less costly, and smarter.” In 2007 facing a new Democratic Congress, President Bush called for investments in alternative energy, education, and asked Congress to work with him on “comprehensive immigration reform.” In acknowledging new political realities and looking for common ground, both Clinton and Bush angered some in their own party but nevertheless sought to lead. So the question is: Will President Obama do the same?
The country, Washington and much of corporate America is suffering from short-termism, a tendency to prioritize quick gains over long term goals. But the State of the Union offers the President an opportunity to change that course, to be bigger, broader and most importantly bolder. He may only have two years left in office, but tonight is his chance to show he can still lead and bring people together to solve the pressing issues before America. Let’s hope he does. Here’s what to watch for…