Mike Allen of POLITICO has gotten some Obama advisers on the phone and gotten a glimpse of what we are going to hear Tuesday night when President Obama delivers his State of the Union speech.
As in the past – when Congress wrote the health, stimulus, and financial reform bills – Obama seems to be making no big, specific proposals of his own, while looking to Congress to take the lead. In which case, the Republicans will do so, and Obama will eventually start accusing them of failing to “cooperate” by accepting ideas he throws out of the peanut gallery. And then he will eventually start campaigning on the notion that they plan to destroy the country.
Here’s what Mike came up with. The CAPS are his, not mine:
He plans to emphasize issues where he thinks he can find COMMON GROUND with Republicans, including education, trade and fiscal responsibility — cutting spending, reexamining regulations, and working toward more efficient and effective government. All that can strengthen our economy, is a way to work with Republicans, and fits the Obama COMPETENCY MEME. A LOT OF HIS TIME WILL BE SPENT ON ISSUES WHERE HE THINKS REPUBLICANS SHOULD BE ABLE TO GO ALONG. He will embrace the spirit of the debt commission’s recommendations, but a detailed response won’t be the headline from the speech. He will call for new investments in education, and talk about trade in terms of competition with other countries, including China.
The president will aggressively defend health reform (benefits are already being enjoyed – preexisting conditions, young adults under age 26, help for seniors on affording prescription drugs) and Wall Street reform (the importance of having rules in place to protect consumers). He will point to progress in Iraq, and the coming “inflection point” in Afghanistan – July, the start for withdrawing combat troops. The president won’t announce a major tax restructuring plan, BUT WILL SAY HE VIEWS THE TAX-CUT AGREEMENT IN DECEMBER AS A MODEL for working directly with Republicans to get some things done. It means they have to take some things they don’t like, and he has to take some things he doesn’t like . . . And he will reprise the lessons in civility to be drawn from the Tucson tragedy.
What, exactly, have Obama’s elves been making over in the West Wing toy shop? Nothing. There is no plan to fix Medicare. There is no plan to fix Social Security. There is no “tax reform” plan, even though the White House has been hinting that revamping the tax code is what Obama wants to focus on. There had better be a comprehensive plan to substantially reduce the deficit, although I honestly don’t see the White House making the painful choices to get us there, so there might not be a serious deficit plan either.
These tough issues will require presidential leadership and political risk, particularly during the new era of divided government. Anything less is a setup for failure. And that means charges during the 2012 campaign Republicans refused to compromise and the assertion that reelecting President Obama is the only way to keep them from passing into law all their scary ideas.