WASHINGTON — If any of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address struck you as familiar, don't be surprised. Much of it was a rehash of familiar phrases and policies he'd proposed earlier.
Telling terrorists, "We will defeat you."
He said exactly the same words in his inaugural speech two years ago.
"This is our generation's Sputnik moment."
He told an audience in North Carolina last month that this was "our generation's Sputnik moment."
A five-year freeze on some federal spending? He proposed a three-year freeze last year.
There were some new touches, to be sure. It was the first time he's said he wants to cut corporate income tax rates, as well as close corporate tax loopholes. And the audience was definitely new — there are a lot more Republicans in the Congress, and a Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner of Ohio, was peering over his shoulder instead of Democrat Nancy Pelosi.
But from Obama's choice of words to his proposals, much of the hour-long speech was old news. Examples:
Tough talk for terrorists.
"We will not relent, we will not waver, and we will defeat you," he said this week.
"You cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you," he said in his Inaugural Address on Jan. 20, 2009.
"To those who would tear this world down, we will defeat you," he said on Nov. 4, 2008, the night he was elected.
In his call for greater federal spending on research to better compete with foreign rivals, Obama this week likened the moment to the U.S. response when the former Soviet Union launched the first satellite, Sputnik, into space in 1957.
"We had no idea how we would beat them to the moon. The science wasn't there yet. NASA didn't even exist. But after investing in better research and education, we didn't just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs," he said Tuesday night.
He road tested the line first back in December, during a visit to a community college in Winston-Salem, N.C.
"That was a wake-up call that caused the United States to boost our investment in innovation and education, particularly in math and science," he said then. "And as a result, once we put our minds to it, once we got focused, once we got unified, not only did we surpass the Soviets, we developed new American technologies, industries, and jobs," he said.
"So 50 years later, our generation's Sputnik moment is back. This is our moment."
"Win the future."
The theme of Obama's State of the Union clearly was "winning the future." He used that phrase or some variation of it 15 times.
But it seems the past is full of futures.
"Winning the Future" was, for example, the title of a 2005 book by Republican Newt Gingrich.
"To Win the Future" was the title of the 1992 inaugural address by former Philippine President Fidel Ramos, according to a handy list compiled by Slate.com.
Even as far back as 1948, people were thinking about the future, with a book on rebuilding postwar Europe called "The Twentieth Century World," which included a seminal chapter entitled, "Win the Future."
Obama didn't just recycle and repeat words and phrases. He did it with ideas.
This week, he proposed freezing all federal spending that doesn't include national security, entitlements such as Medicare and Social Security, interest on the debt and education.
"So tonight, I am proposing that starting this year, we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years," he said.
Here's what he said in last year's State of the Union address: "Starting in 2011, we are prepared to freeze government spending for three years."
Tuition tax credit.
"This year," Obama urged Congress Tuesday, "make permanent our tuition tax credit — worth $10,000 for four years of college."
Last Oct. 13, he said much the same: "I am calling on Congress to make this tax credit permanent so it's worth up to $10,000 for four years of college."
Obama used his State of the Union to propose using federal dollars to leverage private spending to build roads and improve the nation's infrastructure. A White House briefing paper said his plan would include an "infrastructure bank that will revolutionize infrastructure finance, leveraging government resources through attracting private capital . . . the president is committed to making sure that this infrastructure program is fully paid for."
That wasn't new either. He proposed it to a labor audience on Sept. 6 in Milwaukee.
"This is a plan that will be fully paid for," he said then. "We want to set up an infrastructure bank to leverage federal dollars and focus on the smartest investments."
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