Rich Galen

Barack Obama didn't get to be President Obama by ignoring tectonic changes in the political landscape. The Political Pangaea which greeted him with those huge majorities in the 111th Congress has disintegrated into distinct and discrete continents: Republicans in the House; Democrats in the Senate; new Governors and much changed state legislatures.

Gone from this speech was the angry Obama: The challenge to the Justices of the Supreme Court sitting just a few yards away. Replacing it was a call for students to celebrate the "winner of the science fair" not just the winner of the Super Bowl.

As expected the President called for putting "more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges." That promise is fraught with code for another massive infusion of Federal spending - much of it under the Davis-Bacon Act which requires local, county and state governments to pay union wages even if non-union workers are used.

As a sop to the House Democrats, he called for tax increases on "the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans" by not making permanent the tax rates he agreed to in December.

The President backed down from the infamous 1099 rule which would have required every small business in the nation to issue a 1099 form to every vendor paid more than $600 in a year. That rule was put in because the IRS claimed it would recover taxes owed on billions in unreported income and that was one of the gimmicks used so Democrats could claim the health care legislation didn't add to the deficit.

The 6,789 words - pretty cool that it was 6789 but that's how Microsoft counted the words in the advance text - were well written, well delivered and, for the most part, well received by the Members of the House and Senate in the Chamber.

I didn't like everything in the speech, but I like a lot of it. I liked the sound of it. I liked the tone of it.

After the glow of "prom night" in the Capitol dims, we'll see whether President Obama is as willing to talk to, and work with, the Congress, or whether he reverts to the arrogance and over-confidence of his first two years in office.

And, we'll see whether Republicans measure ideas on whether they are in the best interests of the nation, not if they meet some rigid ideological test.

As the President said at the end of his speech:

"It is because of our people that our future is hopeful, our journey goes forward, and the state of our union is strong."


Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at