State of the Union address: Obama plays it safe

I still believe a State of the Union address is a serious opportunity. Congress and commentators both have the rare chance to be taken seriously. But it must start with the president. He must want to be taken seriously.

President George H.W. Bush used the forum to explain changes taking place in the world at the end of the Cold War. President Bill Clinton was precise in outlining where he wanted to lead America. And President George W. Bush presented plans for the post-9/11 world and the wars that entangled us.

President Obama’s address tonight was about his re-election. Not much in it suggested that he or his party would even attempt to govern. It wasn’t so much a laundry list of legislative proposals or goals as it was a laundry list of talking points that will form dull campaign rhetoric.

Obama played it so safe, he was actually boring. The speech was full of bland platitudes. Stating that “I will not walk away from clean energy” was about as bold as he got. There was also: “Anyone who claims America is in decline doesn’t know what they are talking about.” Wow, I feel better already.

Unfortunately for us Republicans, he will run in the clear for a while. He will not be seriously challenged by the 2012 GOP contenders for weeks, or perhaps even months. In the interim, he has the campaign money to promote himself and belittle the Republican opposition. His only headwind is the reality of the bad economy and his unpopular leftward bias.

By Election Day, though, he may wish he had stuck with governing a little longer and stayed closer to the White House for a few more months.

Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog, a political consultant and a veteran of the White House and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991.

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