Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Monday, January 25, 2010

One-Word State of the Union

A Gallup poll confirms that rank-and-file GOP members have followed their leaders in saying "no" to Barack Obama with the widest gap in approval ratings by party for any first-year president in history, 23 percent against 65 for Democrats.

Obama, who started as a wannabe conciliator, faces his first State of the Union with a one-word reality: fractured. Now, the White House is signaling a new fighting tone both in the words of the President and those around him.

David Plouffe, his campaign manager who has just come aboard as an adviser, writes in an OpEd: "Instead of fearing what may happen, let's prove that we have more than just the brains to govern--that we have the guts to govern."

The President spent the best part of his first year wooing "reasonable" Republicans (an oxymoron, it turned out) and getting a near-zero for his pains on every major initiative. It soon became clear that the opposition had seceded from the legislative process as surely as the South had from the Union in the Civil War--that debating policy differences now was as futile as trying to compromise on slavery then.

The loss of Ted Kennedy's seat may serve to rally the Administration like the firing on Ft. Sumter, as Obama pivots his focus from health care to “critical areas where middle-class families need a helping hand to get ahead,” as a White House leaker puts it.

Obama haters, who see him as a two-dimensional advocate for big-government tax-and-spending, may be in for a surprise as, in his flexible deliberative process, he shows signs of recognizing first-year mistakes and now turns for advice to, among others, such gray sages as Paul Volcker, Colin Powell and Warren Buffett.

Even the Wall Street Journal seems edgy about the stereotype, noting that "White House Toughens Tone" as the President gets serious about cutting the budget deficit, backing a bipartisan effort to study ways of doing it.

The state of the union at the moment may be fractured, but a battered Barack Obama may be getting fractious about dealing with it.

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