State of the Union: key points of Barack Obama’s speech

January 29th, 2010 by – “I realise that for every success story, there are other stories, of men and women who wake up with the anguish of not knowing where their next pay cheque will come from …That is why jobs must be our number one focus in 2010, and that is why I am calling for a new jobs bill.”

Mr Obama used the word “jobs” 16 times and made it the centrepiece of his speech. He wants to take $30 billion of the money Wall Street banks has repaid from the financial bailout packages and give it to community banks for small business loans. As well as this specific message, he wanted to prove he understood the frustration and anger of Americans.

“As temperatures cool, I want everyone to take another look at the plan we’ve proposed … Here’s what I ask Congress, though: Don’t walk away from reform. Not now, not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people. Let’s get it done. Let’s get it done.”
The speech was initially timed to be a celebration of the signing of a historic health care reform into law. The Massachusetts election changed all that. Mr Obama surprised some by sticking to his guns on the issue. But his pitch was well into the speech and he gave no indication of how he thinks a bill can now be passed.

“Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years … Like any cash-strapped family, we will work within a budget to invest in what we need and sacrifice what we don’t. And if I have to enforce this discipline by veto, I will.”
This plan was trumpeted beforehand as a big deal but it got only tepid applause. Liberals believe it will hurt the poor and conservatives view it as too little, too late – affecting only 17 per cent of the overall budget and at $250 billion (£155 billion) representing well under one per cent of projected spending a decade.

“This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are. It’s the right thing to do.”
This was a surprise. After the setback over health care and grappling with a recession, it might not be wise for Mr Obama to tackle the issue that cost Bill Clinton so much time and political capital. But the Left is angry and this is one of its most cherished aims. Sceptics will note Mr Obama devoted just 38 words to repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. Is he determined enough to deliver?

“Let’s reject the false choice between protecting our people and upholding our values. Let’s leave behind the fear and division, and do what it takes to defend our nation and forge a more hopeful future for America and for the world.”
The US is engaged in two wars but it wasn’t until three-quarters of the way through the speech that he turned to foreign policy. Even then, it was most remarkable for what he didn’t say. He gave no rationale for why 30,000 more American troops are now deploying to Afghanistan and made only cursory mention of Iraq. He claimed that Iran was now “more isolated” but did not spell out what he meant by the “growing consequences” Tehran faces if it persists with its nuclear ambitions.

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