Obama’s Fair or Foul?

After all the countless GOP debates, last night we really needed to see someone act presidential and remind us why this whole campaign process is important.

And who else but a president can reassure a nervous country about its well-being, its economic stature, its place in the world?

In an address whose major themes were fairness, equity, and working together, President Obama delivered a unifying populist speech that I can’t imagine any of his Republican opponents would know how to give.

Romney? Gingrich? Santorum? Paul? You kidding?

You could have given any of those guys the podium last night, and I doubt any of them would be as inclusive, or as hopeful, or as broad-based in his appeal to the nation as the president.

Asian Americans also showed up last night.

With a campaign that has taken us so far to states with scant Asian American populations (that only accentuates our political invisibility), we did earn a spot in the State of the Union address.

Asian Americans always get at least one speech cutaway (a shot of Energy Secretary Chu last night) and one mention, usually in what I call the “unifying American litany.”

Last night it came near the end. The President framed his speech with the end of the Iraq War and the capture of Osama bin Laden. But for the litany he kept up the war cry and put us all—those in Congress and everyone watching–in battle fatigues.

“Those of us who’ve been sent here to serve can learn a thing or two from the service of our troops. When you put on that uniform, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white; Asian, Latino, Native American; conservative, liberal; rich, poor, gay, straight. When you’re marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails. When you’re in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one nation, leaving no one behind.”

It was probably the most important appeal in the speech. The President used his State of the Union address to put us all in the fight for America’s future, with an appeal to work together.

Just like all those military men and women and the Navy SEALS.

The President did it unveiling what I call his “Fairness” vision. We do it by spending the money saved on the war to rebuild America and create jobs. And then use the principle of fairness in everything from taxes, to protecting investors from fraud, to allowing people to refinance without undue obstruction from banks, to comprehensive immigration reform.

Without mentioning it by name, he all but said he would sign a DREAM Act. Not a watered-down military-only one (that Gingrich is for, and coincidentally, so too is Romney now)—but one for any undocumented person in college in America.

Not surprisingly, Republicans cried “Foul,” and refused to be drafted into “Si Se Puede 2.0.”

Newt Gingrich this morning commented how he “liked the rhetoric.” But he said Obama was just waging a “left wing populist” campaign based on the idea that “government can do it better than free markets.”

Gingrich’s response is the basic Republican view. Indeed, when Gov. Mitch Daniels gave the official Republican response, he seemed drab and morose by comparison. As if he didn’t hear the same speech all the rest of us.

Hope? Not from the GOP. Daniels said Obama was offering “trickle down government,” which I guess is the opposite of the “trickle down economy” of the wealthy. Of course, that’s what got us in the trouble we’re in now, leaving social policy and jobs creation to the whims of the rich.

But the President anticipated all that. In his speech, after suggesting the Buffett Rule, where millionaires lose deductions and are taxed at an effective rate of 30 percent, he showed he was prepared for a fight.

“Now, you can call this class warfare all you want,” the President said. “But asking a billionaire to pay at least as much as his secretary in taxes? Most Americans would call that common sense.”

Some people may have been hopeful to see Obama trumpet race more effectively in his administration. But we all know how careful he’s been on that score. Race to Obama doesn’t make political sense. But class does. Class is a much safer, broader place to come from, especially after the recession, which definitely believed in diversity.

Gingrich, Romney, Santorum, or Paul, President Obama seems ready for the fight.

Image by AALDEF

Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. Updates at Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.

The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.

Read Emil's full bio →