Obama: The Anti-Reagan
In his column, “Obama: No Retreat, No Surrender,” E.J. Dionne argues that President Obama’s State of the Union speech was like Ronald Reagan’s 1984 speech “turned on its head:”
This was a campaign speech, but so, too, were the State of the Union addresses of Ronald Reagan in 1984 and Bill Clinton in 1996, as former Clinton speechwriter David Kusnet pointed out. The comparisons are instructive.
Obama’s was closer to the Reagan model, in form if not content. Reagan laid out what became the major themes of his campaign, including not only the nation’s recovery from economic turmoil but also his central philosophical purpose: a continuing battle against “the tendency of government to grow.”
Obama’s speech was Reagan’s turned on its head. Like Reagan, Obama previewed his election arguments in a philosophically aggressive way. But Obama’s claim was the opposite of Reagan’s. Obama spoke of government’s essential role in ensuring shared prosperity and in creating an America “built to last” — a slogan drawn, perhaps not accidentally, from truck commercials for General Motors, the company whose rescue Obama engineered.
Obama’s speech was chock-full of government initiatives: tax benefits to promote domestic manufacturing, new job-training partnerships between community colleges and businesses, education reform, more work-study jobs, broader opportunities for mortgage refinancing, incentives to hold down college tuitions. Obama used his energy program to make his larger point explicit: “Government support is critical in helping businesses get new energy ideas off the ground.”