President Obama gave his first 2015 State of the Union Address Tuesday night.
States of the Union addresses are, historically, a platform for the President to unveil his big programs and goals for the year ahead. However, in an break with precedent, the White House chose to not only reveal Obama’s main policy platforms for 2015 in the two weeks leading up to his speech, but took the highly unusual step of releasing the speech in its entirety to the media before the president delivered it.
The speech itself had few surprises. Obama declared the state of the Union is indeed strong, the recession has finally been beaten back, the economy is now on the upswing and that his economic policies have worked as expected.
He also continued to reinforce his renewed emphasis on middle-class economics, which he called the idea that “everyone gets their fair shot” at making it in America. He signaled willingness to compromise on tax reform and trade issues with the now fully Republican Congress, two areas where Obama may actually be in opposition to many members of his own Democratic party on Capitol Hill. While he indicated a bipartisan streak in those two areas, Obama was sure to remind the Republicans that he is ready and able to use his veto powers, singling out the Keystone XL pipeline in particular.
Obama also took time to discuss foreign policy, saying that he favored a “smarter kind of American leadership,” leadership that “combine(s) military power with strong diplomacy,” before calling on Congress to pass a resolution authorizing the use of force against the Islamic State in the Levant (also known as ISIS/ISIL). Rapprochement with Cuba was also mentioned by the him as an area where he anticipates action this year, although he did not address reports that he had already chosen an ambassador to the communist nation.
The highlight of the evening was when Obama ad-libed a response to Republican cheers that he was not planning to campaign again, saying in reference to his two presidential campaigns, “I won them both.” By the end of the speech #IWonThemBoth was trending on Twitter. While Obama appeared in an upbeat and optimistic mood throughout the speech, the address offered few surprises.
However, it certainly did send a signal to Congress and the Republicans that Obama does not consider himself to be a lame duck in any sense of the phrase and is ready to go to battle with them in the coming legislative session.