WASHINGTON -- When the world tunes in for the State of the Union address next week, viewers will be treated to a dramatic improvement in the background scenery. Thanks to American voters, House Speaker John Boehner's well-tanned smile will be behind the president instead of Nancy Pelosi's surgically enhanced grimace. But if President Barack Obama -- who campaigned for office by promising "hope" and "change" -- is paying attention to current events, he must also alter his message.
James Carville's famous words, "It's the economy, stupid," are still true. Therefore, most of what Obama says Tuesday night will focus on ways he can be credited with "creating and preserving" American jobs and stemming the tidal wave of home foreclosures. Predictably, he will find ways to blame his predecessor for our current economic travail. His remarks will include carefully crafted applause lines on new calls for "civility" in political discourse in the aftermath of the atrocity in Tucson, Ariz., along with pledges to cut deficit spending and debt in the years ahead. We also should expect promises to "work with Republicans" on "improving, not ending," his health insurance law and platitudes about "protecting American security" while eliminating "waste, fraud and abuse" by "reforming" our nation's defense budget.
Much of the national security rhetoric will be designed to mask major reductions in defense spending -- one discretionary federal expenditure on which Obama and most of his fellow Democrats are united. He will justify drastic military cuts by assuring everyone that in the months ahead, he will withdraw all U.S. forces from Iraq and begin, "as promised," the drawdown of American forces in Afghanistan. And of course, he will commend the now departed lame-duck 111th Congress for repealing Section 654 of Title 10 of the U.S. Code -- the misnamed "don't ask, don't tell" law -- which barred transgender and active homosexual and bisexual people from our armed forces.
All of this is calculated to remind us -- and those watching around the world -- that what Obama really wants, Obama gets. It's not an empty claim, for much of his initial political agenda has been enacted into law already. But the president also knows the new Republican-tea party coalition in Congress is committed to rolling back his vision of a bigger, costlier, more intrusive federal establishment. He's well aware that Boehner and his colleagues are likely to compel compromises on government-run health care for all, insist on improving border security, require a realistic national energy policy and even force modest reversals of forecasted defense cuts. In short, Obama's "legacy" is at risk.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.