So Obama delivered his SOTU last night. "We do big things" was the message. The specifics were few but he touched on clean energy. Better schools. Tax code reform. Oh, and the state of the Union is... wait for it... strong.
Why this speech, filled with generalities? We know this President is capable of far more penetrating insight into the country and the policies needed to fix it. Why did he give us this pabulum instead?
The answer, I think, is that this was not a speech; it was an effort to get positioned well for the 2012 campaign. Forget the policy prescriptions last night. What Obama wanted to do was establish one thing, and one thing only: I AM THE PRESIDENT TO ALL AMERICANS.
For two years he has been demonized and "othered" by Fox and the Tea Partiers. Many of them, particularly in the South, a hard-core 20% in the polls, will detest him and question his legitimacy regardless (because he is in the "Democrat Party," because he is black, because he is "an elitist", etc.). But for the middle 40%, he needs to show that he shares the same concerns they do.
Details would get in the way of this effort. So he focused on the one thing that every living, breathing person cannot deny is in his or her interest: the future. "This is how we will win the future!" he exhorted us.
Win the future? Like a lottery ticket? Or a war? Or a new car? The phrase leaves me uneasy; it dredges up with it the same zero-sum, me-first outlook on life that got us into this mess in the first place.
Still, it gets us looking in the same direction, all Americans. And certainly President Obama will have the advantage over his divisive opponents anytime the country is looking the same direction.
Let the games begin.