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Editorial: President Obama speech falls short

President Obama opened his State of the Union speech Tuesday by reminding Congress of John F. Kennedy's quote about how "the Constitution makes us not rivals for power, but partners for progress."

After that statement, though, the president's remaining 6,000-plus words offered few proposals (and even fewer details) that showed he understood the most important ingredient in a successful partnership is compromise. In fact, he even vowed to invoke executive privilege should Congress not be the partner he desires on some issues.

If anything, the hourlong speech seemed more in line with his bold inaugural address last month, in which he laid out an aggressive agenda on dozens of issues but no clear path to achieving any of them.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the Republican response from Sen. Marco Rubio indicated any path will have its share of partisan potholes.

Obama again opined Tuesday on the most critical topics -- the economy and the federal budget/deficit -- but didn't signal much in the way of substantial changes in his positions. The closest he came was a vow to curb Medicare spending for retirees of the amount equal to that proposed by the Simpson-Bowles commission. However, he offered no details about what would be cut.

And in a sure sign the speech was as much about politics as policies, some of the details the president did cite pushed the edges of clarity.

For example, Obama touted that "both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion." According to Politifact, though, that amount is questionable.

First, it covers yet-to-be-made cuts through 2022. Who is to say future presidents and Congresses will make them? Second, Politifact says, "deficit spending will continue -- and the federal debt will rise -- just not as quickly as it otherwise would have. ... The amount the federal government owes the public will approach $20 trillion in 2023, an increase of more than $8 trillion from its current level."

Beyond federal budgets and the economy, the president made siren calls for change and improvements on many issues. Among those were:

· Closing tax loopholes and targeting tax reform and public investments toward the middle class.

· Amping up America's commitment to renewable energy and pushing more measures that address climate change.

· Calling for increased and improved preschool options.

While applause often followed these various statements, only time will tell if that clapping was from members of Congress who already support him or from his opponents. Given how little he appeared to bend from previous positions, it would seem to be the former, not the latter. -- St. Cloud Times