New Castle News

February 21, 2013

Our Opinion: President Obama offers little new in annual address

By Staff
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — President Obama’s State of the Union address this year isn’t likely to go down as a major historic moment.

That’s because much of it wasn’t particularly new. And much that was new isn’t likely to go anywhere.

The problem, of course, isn’t with Obama’s speech. The president’s oratorical skills are superb and serve him well in such a setting.

But the nation’s economic situation, combined with the bitter gridlock in Washington, would prevent any president from credibly advancing an ambitious agenda.

And Obama acknowledged this, spending much of his address on current budget squabbles amid the fiscal uncertainty of the looming sequester.

A couple of months ago, Washington was wrestling with the so-called fiscal cliff, which was averted in part by kicking much of the can down the road to the end of February. Well, guess what? It’s getting close to March and federal officials are again without a fiscal agreement.

So we are hearing warnings of harmful budget cuts, particularly to defense programs. And instead of working to resolve differences, Republicans and Democrats are mainly angling for public sympathy, trying to blame the other party for the current situation.

This includes responsibility for creating the sequester — basically an automatic budget cut. The fact is both parties agreed to it and need to deal with that reality.

As for new economic initiatives, Obama went to pains to argue those he was proposing would not place additional burdens on the budget. Translation: he knew neither Congress nor the American people would accept anything ambitious.

Elsewhere in the address, Obama made a more passioned push for various gun-related restrictions. But at the end of the day, it’s by no means clear that anything of consequence will make it through Congress, let alone the restrictions on assault-type weapons and ammunition clips the president proposes.

In terms of foreign policy — a subject that has dominated State of the Union speeches for more than a decade — it seemed to be mostly an afterthought. Obama’s goal of winding down American involvement in Afghanistan is proceeding, although challenges remain there and elsewhere.

The president was obliged to bring up North Korea, which had just conducted another nuclear test, and Iran, which refuses to abandon its nuclear program. But these both remain tough nuts to crack. Don’t be surprised if they’re prominently mentioned in next year’s State of the Union speech.

One subject worth mentioning — and Obama did — is cybersecurity. This threat is costing the nation billions and poses dangers potentially much greater than conventional terrorism. America needs to do more about it, and the president needs to lead the way.