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Obama warns against giving in to election year cynicism

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washingto today.

WASHINGTON » Eyeing the end of his presidency, Barack Obama urged Americans Tuesday night to rekindle their belief in the promise of change that first carried him to the White House, declaring that the country must not allow election-year fear and division to take hold.

“The future we want,” he insisted, “is within our reach.” But opportunity and security for American families “will only happen if we work together … if we fix our politics,” he added.

The nation’s goals must include “a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids,” he said in his final State of the Union address.

At the heart of Obama’s address to lawmakers and a prime-time television audience was an implicit call to keep Democrats in the White House for a third straight term. Sharply, and at times sarcastically, he struck back at rivals who have challenged his economic and national security stewardship, calling it all “political hot air.”

In a swipe at some Republican presidential candidates, he warned against “voices urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us or pray like us or vote like we do or share the same background.”

His words were unexpectedly echoed by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who was selected to give the Republican response to Obama’s address. Underscoring how the heated campaign rhetoric about immigrants and minorities from GOP front-runner Donald Trump in particular has unnerved some Republican leaders, Haley called on Americans to resist the temptation “to follow the siren call of the angriest voices.”

“No one who is willing to work hard, abide by our laws and love our traditions should ever feel unwelcome,” Haley said in excerpts released ahead of her remarks.

Seeking to shape his own legacy, Obama ticked through a retrospective of his domestic and foreign policy actions in office, including helping lead the economy back from the brink of depression, taking aggressive action on climate change and ending a Cold War freeze with Cuba.

He vowed a robust campaign to “take out” the Islamic State group, but chastised Republicans for “over the top claims” about the extremist group’s power.

“Masses of fighters on the back of pickup trucks and twisted souls plotting in apartments or garages pose an enormous danger and must be stopped,” he said. “But they do not threaten our national security.”

The president’s words were unlikely to satisfy Republicans, as well as some Democrats, who say he underestimates the Islamic State’s power and is leaving the U.S. vulnerable to attacks at home.

Obama was frank about one of his biggest regrets: failing to ease the persistently deep divisions between Democrats and Republicans.

“The rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better,” he conceded. “There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.”

Mindful of the scant prospect for major legislative action in an election year, Obama avoided the traditional litany of policy proposals. He did reiterate his call for working with Republicans on criminal justice reform and finalizing an Asia-Pacific trade pact, and he also vowed to keep pushing for action on politically fraught issues such as curbing gun violence and fixing the nation’s fractured immigration laws.

Yet Obama was eager to look beyond his own presidency, casting the actions he’s taken as a springboard for future economic progress and national security. His optimism was meant to draw a contrast with what the White House sees as doom-and-gloom scenarios peddled by the GOP.

“The United States of America is the most powerful nation on earth. Period,” he declared. “It’s not even close.”

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  • He has divided the country economically, racially and morally. Like Jimmie Carter he has two faults: domestic and foreign. I wonder how many times he’ll bring down Bush in the SOTU speech–it is a political year!!!

    • “he has divided the country economically, racially and morally.” This is priceless coming from the poster who has repeatedly been censored in this Forum for using racial slurs when referencing the President. Priceless… and ridiculous.

      • Downtown, Serious is right. I haven’t seen the US so racially divided since the ’60’s. Black Lives Matter?? It’s OK to beat up a store owner, take whatever you want then attempt to beat up a cop and if you get killed in the process it’s a racial thing? Are the prisons filled with blacks because it’s a racial thing? Really? Employers are required to provide Obama care if you work full time, look at the number of people who now work less than full time? Heck, hire 2 people and work them 20 hours a week so you don’t have to pay the bennies, make’s Obama look like he’s doing a good job. How many “american cars” are built outside the US? As you said, Priceless…and ridiculous.

        • I was addressing serious’ hypocrisy on racism. He has repeatedly used racist slurs and comments in this Forum and been booted for it and then comes in here and accuses someone else of “dividing us racially”? Ignore it and deflect if you like, but if you don’t call it out, you condone it.

        • Yousofunny, DTG. “Ignore it and deflect” is exactly what you’re doing. Serious is a single, obscure individual (like all of us non-presidents). Mr. Obama is the (shudder) leader of the free world (gag). Mr. Obama’s many examples of juvenile, racial divisiveness are not magically discounted by something poor little Mr. Serious allegedly said. I use the term “allegedly” because of your propensity for hyper-sensitivity to any hint of racial or ethnic bias. Oh, yeah. Call it out, even when it isn’t there, but, hey, that’s the environment progressives have created–a college building named for a person named Lynch has to go, the song White Christmas—double bad, smacking of white privilege AND Christianity, any innocent remark or accidental circumstance becomes a micro aggression.

  • Obama has a problem, no one believes what he says anymore, so he will fabricate a false narrative about how great he was in the last seven pitiful years. Living in a bubble will do this to you after a while, everything is good and everyone loves you. The real world presents a different story, so when watching the president spin at the SOTU tonight, it should be great fiction if not interesting.

    • The only ones who listen to his words are the Gruber subjects, the uneducated/illinformed electorate. The fact is that he was elected by the color of his skin and not by his character….many Gruber subjects wanted to part of history. Watch, Clinton, a woman, supposedly a feminist, may get elected because she has the female anatomy, and again the Gruber subjects will fall in line so that they can say they were part of history. If she was truly a feminist, the moment it came out the her husband was getting oral sex from Monica, she should have stood up, walk away and took him to the cleaners with every penny he has but instead she stood by her man. Remember a few years back, she said they were flat broke from the years they spent at the WH but what is she doing trying to go back to that same WH that caused them to be broke, does that make sense?

  • A Quinnipiac University poll released in 2014 pegged Obama as the worst US president since World War II. Under President Obama, Democrats have lost 900+ state legislature seats, 12 governors, 69 House seats, 13 Senate seats.

  • What “Scares” about Barry is NOT his SOTU speech. We already know how he’s going to spin this. He’s going to blame Congress, GW BUSH, NRA, Climate Change Deniers,Islamaphobes and so on!
    “What Scares” me? Is this! Where we(USA) have some kind of catastrophy ,that will able him to another 2 terms! Like FDR?? Yikes!! But for now all we can do, is just countdown the days.IMUA

  • Obama said we have the strongest military in the world, the military leaders didn’t seam to think so…….300 days,11 hours,51 minutes and 10 seconds to go………

    • @scudrunner: go back and watch past State of the Union Addresses (both parties). That’s how they ALWAYS look when their Commander-in-Chief is giving the Address. They are professionals and know their role in the Kabuki theater that surrounds this event.

      • Downtown, Obama has and never had a foreign policy. He has downsized the military to such a degree that I doubt if we can defend our from China or Russia. We are down to a minimal army, are you OK with that? Are you OK with closing downGuantánamo Bay? You have got to be nuts!! Do the military leaders support a party? No!! Their job is to protect the US and their not getting any help from Obama.

        • And again you deflect from what I said. You referred to the “military leaders didn’t seam (sic) to think so” at the SOTU Address. You are projecting your opinion onto their expressions as they listen to the Commander in Chief. Unless you know them personally, I will choose to not buy into your assertion that you know what they think. Regarding Guantanamo: yes, I support closing it down. We are holding people there without charges or trial. Maybe you are “scared” of the justice system, but I’m not. Bring them here and put them on trial.

        • “I doubt if we can defend our from China or Russia.”

          What part of “we spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined” do you not understand? China and Russia has no chance against us.

  • I like what was supposed to be a “honey” shot of our Congresswoman Tulsi during the SOTU speech and she was doing what a lot in the audience probably wanted to do—TEXTING!!!! Some old stuff–get the parties together–what bull–how many times has HE said, I will not negotiate?????

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