Obama's Vision: ''An America Built to Last''

Plus, Deval Patrick
By EDITORIAL  |  January 25, 2012

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By any measure, President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech would have been considered a political winner, but coming just one day after the Republicans' constipated Florida-primary debate, Obama scored an undeniable triumph.

Commanding and eloquent, Obama was the essence of a leader.

In the aftermath of Obama's performance, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney were left looking like Beavis and Butt-Head — minus the metal boys' delinquent charm.

Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, the Republican tapped to respond to the president, delivered a rebuttal worthy of the late senator Robert Taft, the conservative icon who has been dead for 59 years.

Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown was more rooted in the moment. Exhibiting the self-serving magnanimity that has become his hallmark, Brown said that he was "open" to Obama's ideas. Brown, of course, would be open to cutting off his left ear if he thought it would win him re-election in his fight against likely Democratic nominee Elizabeth Warren.

There was a healthy slice of pie in the sky in Obama's State of the Union. America, however, is hungry: starved for results, yearning for hope.

At long last, Obama abandoned all but the pretense of working with the know-nothing, do-nothing Republicans.

With subtlety fortified by commanding confidence, the president made it clear to the nation that the rut in which America is stuck is due to GOP bloody-mindedness.

Obama challenged the Republicans and their Quisling Democratic allies: to prosecute the financial crooks who caused the economic collapse, craft a fair deal for undocumented immigrants, invest in a crumbling infrastructure, improve education, and provide more jobs for more people — especially veterans.

Obama rechanneled the words of John F. Kennedy: ask not what America can do for corporations, ask what corporations can do for America.

It was a finely tuned piece of economic nationalism that would have been worthy of Harry Truman, the Democratic president so many Republicans claim to admire.

Obama evoked the idea of community spirit, communal needs. His words were unequivocal:

"It's time to apply the same rules from top to bottom: no bailouts, no handouts, no cop-outs. An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody."

In the idiom of the movies, Obama was referencing Jimmy Stewart, the Hollywood star who served as a bomber pilot during World War II, as opposed to Ronald Reagan, who spent the war making publicity films.

It is hard to imagine Obama delivering the speech he did if it were not for the efforts of Occupy Wall Street and its allied movements. Thanks to Occupy, income inequality is now at the core of the national debate.

The hapless Romney also gave Obama an unexpected assist in releasing his tax returns the very morning of the State of the Union.

Romney, who is considered a "vulture capitalist" by some of his fellow Republicans, not surprisingly paid a shade less than 14 percent of his income in federal taxes. That's far below the tax rate paid by most non-millionaires.

For some strange reason, Americans had trouble grasping the gross and corrosive inequality of the tax system before the Romney IRS dump. Now it is center stage, part of the economic corruption that spawns inequality.

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