President Obama, facing a new Republican led congress, showed no sign of intimidation, as he delivered a strong state of the union address, laying out what may well be the agenda for the 2016 election.
He began by pointing out the strength of the U.S. economy, touting growth that is the highest in 14 years, unemployment down to 5.6%, a booming stock market and gasoline prices dropping to $2 a gallon.
A slight mention of the Canadian Keystone XL Pipeline while highlighting advances in U.S. clean energy was likely a signal Obama will veto congressional approval of the pipeline.
The president appealed for bipartisan action on tax reform to close loopholes, increase taxes on the very wealthy, tax credits for middle class working families and a national public works program to repair and enhance the country’s infrastructure.
Increasing the national minimum wage was given a push with the president inviting members of congress that oppose this action to try living on $15,000 a year.
Two issues that may well become part of the Democratic Party platform in the 2016 election were proposals to provide free tuition for 2 year community colleges, providing day care for working families and guaranteeing the right to American workers to earn 7 days of sick leave per year.
These are populist issues that make sense. The devil is always in the details, few of which were provided by Obama.
The president said he will take his message on the road. Interestingly and displaying his belief in his populist message, his first stops will be in Idaho and Kansas, two red states.
While he appealed for bipartisan cooperation in congress, the president made it clear he would veto legislation that would dismantle healthcare; highlighting 10 million more Americans were covered with health care insurance and health insurance premiums had dropped to the lowest rate in years.
The opening of relations with Cuba and the return of imprisoned Alan Gross via executive action received mention by the president who added it made no sense to continue a policy that has not worked for 50 years. He called on congress to end the embargo.
The ending of American military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan was highlighted along with the statement America reserves the right to take unilateral action to protect itself.
The president asked for authorization of force from congress in regard to the new battle with ISIS, adding he believed it was important for America to act smartly in this effort and not rush into heightened military action.
Another veto threat was given in regard to added sanctions by congress on Iran, saying the diplomatic talks with Iran to dismantle their nuclear weapons program should be allowed to continued.
However Obama said the U.S. would not take any option off the table to ensure Iran did not implement a viable nuclear weapons program.
In addition to touting the executive action he took on climate control with China, he asked congress to approve an Asian trade accord.
The president even threw support to NASA with a pledge to put a man on Mars, echoing President Kennedy’s call in 1961 to put a man on the Moon.
All in all an excellent speech that showed Obama has no fear of working with a Republican led congress.
Contrary, Obama put the onus on Republicans to deliver over the next two years.
With the 2016 president election just beginning to heat up Obama, who is not eligible to run for another term, has instead thrown out proposals to set the agenda.
A forlorn looking Speaker of the House John Boehner was captured throughout Obama’s speech because protocol seating placed him directly behind the president.
Following the speech, illustrating the dysfunctional Republican Party, it took five of them to deliver the Republican response to the state of the union delivered by President Obama.
It promises to be an interesting two years ahead.
Let’s hope the pleas made by President Obama at the end of his speech for Americans to come together to move our country forward are heeded.
Obama is right, we are not a collection of red and blue states; we are the United States.