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The Right Tone for the State of the Union

Mitchell, Lincoln A.

The best thing Obama can do in this speech is to reassert his relevance by speaking frankly about the economy, stressing his awareness of the problems more than the bills he has passed since becoming president. He also can use this speech not as an opportunity to, yet again, recommit himself to reaching across the aisle and working with the Republicans, but to remind the Congress and the country that Obama is the one nationally-elected official and that he remains more popular than either party in congress. He can do this by challenging the Republican Party, not to support Obama's agenda, but to work with him in putting partisan interests aside in favor of doing what is good for the country. The president needs to demonstrate to the American people and to Congress that he is a leader and is going to act like one. President Obama can do this best not through listing accomplishments or proposals, but by striking a tone that indicates both an understanding of the problems and fierce urgency of addressing them rather than backing down after the shellacking. This approach will require some political courage and will come with some short-term consequences, but the easy option is to play nice and sink into political irrelevance.

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Academic Units
Harriman Institute
Published Here
May 17, 2012