Stung by the results of the November election and the backlash, by some, toward his law to expand health care coverage, President Barack Obama is refashioning himself as a centrist economic developer, a deficit hawk and a conciliator-in-chief.
It might just work.
Suffering under 9.4 percent unemployment, Americans are looking toward the president and Congress to jump-start the nation's economic recovery and, beyond that, to position the United States so it can compete in a rapidly changing world. They want more action and less rancor.
"At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else," the president said in his second State of the Union speech. "It's whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded."
Obama challenged the country to seize this era as a "Sputnik moment" where investments in energy, technology, infrastructure and education could pay off for generations. At the same time, he called for a freeze on domestic spending for the next five years, reducing the deficit by $400 billion. How will he make far-reaching investments while holding down on spending? It will mean a reordering of priorities, with less money spent on defense.
Obama's task on Tuesday was to link his vision of a cutting-edge future with the current reality of the Rust Belt and other regions that have lost millions of jobs. He did this by talking about Michigan roofers, who with the help of a government loan reinvented their Michigan factory to manufacture solar shingles.
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