Conciliatory and cocky Obama in state of union speech is a lesson for Modi

The prime minister can pick up some political points from the US president during his visit

GN Bureau | January 21, 2015




When US president Barack Obama comes to India next week, he will be a different person, and prime minister Narendra Modi can learn few things from him.

Addressing Congress for the first time since Republicans seized the Senate in November elections, the Democratic president made clear he will not back down from his political opponents, urging them to work with him to engage in a debate about the future "without demonizing each other."

"Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns," he said during his annual state of union address to joint session of federal legisalture. "Imagine if we did something different."

Offering to be conciliatory towards his political opponents, Obama appeared boastful, confident and even cocky despite his party’s electoral pounding in the midterm election or dipping approval ratings.

With budget session next month, Modi needs to pick up these strings of politics of possibilities even though he enjoys huge mandate and popularity.  Obama also enumerated various points to make his virtuous performance worth emulating.

Obama pledged to veto any measures that would undo his sweeping immigration executive actions or his healthcare law.

Obama declared America is ready to “turn the page” on years of hardship. Obama’s central theme of the address remained focused on the economic policy aimed at strengthening the middle class. He wants to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans by $320 billion over the next 10 years to pay for expanded tax credits and educational benefits for the middle class, including two years of free community college.

 “America, for all that we’ve endured; for all the grit and hard work required to come back; for all the tasks that lie ahead, know this: The shadow of crisis has passed, and the state of the union is strong,” Obama said.

Obama vowed to improve job training programs, advocated “a free and open Internet” and issued a blunt challenge to lawmakers who oppose raising the minimum wage.

“If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it,” he said, with a smile. “If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”

Obama made a broad appeal for “a better politics” and criticized partisan “gotcha moments” and “fake controversies,” but he seemed to do little else to ease the tensions.

And for the first time the White House also publicly released the full text of Mr. Obama's remarks on the website Medium, which allowed users to view charts and infographics as they read. The White House  also stressed that publicly releasing the remarks before the president started speaking was unprecedented:  "There is a ritual on State of the Union night in Washington. A little before the address, the White House sends out an embargoed copy of the President's speech to the press... eventually everyone in Washington can read along, but the public remains in the dark. This year we change that."

Full text is available here

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