Rhetorically, President Obama hit all the right notes in his State of the Union speech. It was big on vision -- ``our Sputnik moment'' -- accommodating on some issues (corporate taxes) and tough on others (no healthcare repeal, no way). But if the president was long on inspiration, he was short on details and hazy on how he plans to make good on promises.
The president struck a good balance on the crucial matter of reducing the deficit without smothering the economic recovery. That's likely to be the main battleground with Republican lawmakers this year. The country cannot afford to have one or the other -- it must have both. That will require the sort of ``investment'' the president repeatedly invoked, but he'll have to contend with Republican lawmakers who say that's just a code word for more spending.
Mr. Obama deserves credit for diving into the issue by freezing federal salaries, as well as discretionary spending for five years, but that is not likely to satisfy deficit hawks, nor should it. The freeze saves an estimated $400 billion over 10 years, but that's barely 1 percent of projected federal spending over that period.
The GOP's answer is to cut all the programs they don't like -- less funding for the arts and so forth -- a political nonstarter that would make even less of a dent in the national debt, and to make deep cuts in spending that could derail the economy just as it improves.
Neither side has a solid strategy for reducing the debt. Until both sides agree on how to cut entitlements -- Social Security and Medicare -- or bring them into line with revenues, voters should withhold their applause.
On some issues -- trade, for example -- it's unclear how much political capital Mr. Obama is willing to expend to turn his rhetoric into reality.
This matters a great deal to South Florida. Trade provides local jobs, attracts investments, strengthens international ties. The president wants to double U.S. exports by 2015. Great, but where's the legislative plan? Only when Mr. Obama shows that he's willing to buck naysayers in his own Democratic Party and insist on bringing the pending free-trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama to a vote will he be able to make good on this vision.
To read the complete editorial, visit www.miamiherald.com.