Obama’s Speech: Summing Up Career Or Plans For Future? – OpEd


By Andrei Ptashnikov

Recently, the two houses of the US Congress held a joint session. President Obama read his address to Congress, in which he spoke about the situation in the country.

Our observer Andrey Ptashnikov comments on Mr. Obama’s speech.

Traditionally, US presidents make such addresses to Congress once a year. For Barack Obama, this is 4th time. However, this one was listened to with double interest, for Mr. Obama’s current term of presidency will soon run out, and he intends to run for a second term. Thus, his speech was, in fact, summing up the results of his first term and making plans for another one if he wins the elections.

Barack Obama’s speech was broadcast on nationwide TV, so it was, in fact, his address not only to Congress, but to the whole nation as well. Last year, 43 mln Americans listened to Mr. Obama’s address. This year’s number of listeners has not yet been announced, but, most likely, it was even bigger.

It would be logical to assume that in the current situation of a financial crisis, the main topics in the president’s speech would be the economy, finances and employment – and they really were.

Some people are criticizing Barack Obama that he is intending to run for a second term of presidency without having done anything really useful during his first one – and, in his speech, Mr. Obama tried his best to prove that he has done something good for his country. For example, he mentioned that he had suggested a reform of the country’s tax system, which would have eased the tax burden for companies which create new jobs. He had also suggested forming two new national departments – for fighting financial crime and for controlling foreign trade. So, Mr. Obama is trying to say that will run for another term not because he hasn’t done anything during his first one, but because one term is not enough to finish what he has already started.

It should be mentioned that in his speech, President Obama didn’t try to conceal that there are many obstacles to his plans. But, at the same time, he gave it to be understood that he would have had more success if not for the intractability of some congressmen – mostly, Republicans. Mr. Obama obviously tried to depict himself as a defender of the interests of the middle class, while his opponents, he hinted, stand for the interests of a bunch of tycoons.

With the help of such statements, Barack Obama probably wants to win the support of both centrist politicians and people who have not yet decided for whom to vote at the elections. And, according to recent polls, the number of those who are still at a loss about for whom to vote is very large.

Some observers have already dubbed Mr. Obama’s speech “populist”. Well, it is hard to expect something else from one who wants to run for presidency – the more so because at present, Barack Obama’s rating is catastrophically low. He has to work a miracle to win the elections.

However, Mr. Obama looked quite brave and sure of himself during his speech. He even said that the situation in the country was allegedly changing for the better:

“The state of our Union is getting stronger. And we’ve come too far to turn back now. As long as I’m President, I will work with anyone in this chamber to build on this momentum. But I intend to fight obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place.”

This time, Mr. Obama spoke little about foreign policy. He said that these problems concern Americans rather little, except for if news comes that the US is taking part in another war. However, the chances that a new war may break out are, unfortunately, rather big because of the situation around Iran.

Touching upon this topic, Mr. Obama said the following: “America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal.”

Isn’t this statement, to put it mildly, a little bellicose?

It has already become a tradition that right after the US president delivers such an address to Congress, it comes under criticism from the opposition party. This time, the person who criticized Mr. Obama’s speech was Republican Mitch Daniels, Governor of the State of Indiana:

“The president did not cause the economic and fiscal crisis that continue in America tonight. But he was elected on a promise to fix them. And he cannot claim that the last three years is anything but worse.”

It is sometimes hard to remain objective while criticizing your political opponent and not to fall into criticizing for the sake of criticizing, the more so if both you and he are intending to run for presidency. Thus, Mr. Daniels probably exaggerated some things while criticizing Mr. Obama.

The presidential elections in the US will take place on November 6. The following day it will become known whether in his speech Mr. Obama was summing up his career as President, or whether he will have one more chance to implement his plans.


VOR, or the Voice of Russia, was the Russian government's international radio broadcasting service from 1993 until 2014, when it was reorganised as Radio Sputnik.

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