Countdown to State of the Union–2011: Invoking Tucson, 'Poised for Progress'

Countdown to State of the Union–2011: Invoking Tucson, 'Poised for Progress'

Three months after his party suffered massive midterm election losses, President Barack Obama addressed the new, divided Congress in his 2011 State of the Union address. He began by referring to the recent Tucson shootings as a reminder of the importance of unity amidst “the noise and passion and rancor of our public debate,” a theme Democrats in particular had stressed, as if that rancor were conservatives’ fault.

Obama’s soaring rhetoric on the economy was more restrained than in previous years. He lauded some positive signs: “[T]he stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.” Yet he acknowledged implicitly that jobs remained a challenge, calling for a new jobs bill. Putting a positive spin on bleak results, the president claimed the economy was “poised for progress”–a phrase he has repeated through today.

While promising a freeze on new federal spending for five years, Obama spoke about the spending he wanted to protect, particularly “investment” in innovation, education and infrastructure. The U.S. faced a “Sputnik moment,” he said, and had to rise to the challenge. He lauded programs such as Race to the Top, and promised to lower the corporate tax rate, review government regulations, consider tort reform, simplify the tax code, and tackle immigration reform–all of which he failed to do in the following years.

On foreign policy, the president repeated many of the points he had made in 2010, and added that gay troops would no longer be barred from service. He also endorsed the uprising in Tunisia that kicked off the “Arab Spring”; after being criticized for reacting too slowly to the radical changes across the region, now Obama sought to endorse them.