For the most part, the media critics aren't buying what he's selling.
The Washington Post editorial board suggests that the president needed to make clearer how the country was going to pay for much of what was outlined in his address:
President Obama entered office promising to be a different kind of politician - one who would speak honestly with the American people about the hard choices they face and who would help make those hard calls. Tuesday night's State of the Union Address would have been the moment to make good on that promise. He disappointed. ...
The reality, as Mr. Obama understands, is that the country is headed for fiscal catastrophe unless it does some politically unpopular things: unwind the Bush tax cuts, including for the middle class; reduce projected Social Security benefits for future retirees, exempting the poor and disabled; rein in the cost of health care; limit popular income tax deductions. Mr. Obama knows this, but last night he did little to prepare Americans for any of it. The best you could say is that he left the door open to work with Congress on these issues.TIME magazine suggested that the president returned to familiar themes, albeit repackaged, as he set his agenda for the final two years of his first (and only?) term in the Oval Office. In doing so,
Obama's formula last night for "Winning the Future" was basically a revival of his original new foundation: innovation, education, clean energy and infrastructure, eventually followed by deficit reduction. In fact, almost all of his policy proposals involved expanding or extending big-ticket items from the $787 billion stimulus package enacted during his first month in office: his Race to the Top education program, his $2,500-a-year tuition tax credit, his high-speed rail program, his broadband initiatives and his aggressive push to promote green energy and green manufacturing. He even gave a shout-out to the supercomputer at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which became the fastest in the world after it received a $20 million stimulus-funded upgrade — and before it was overtaken by a supercomputer in China.
The New York Times reports that the president offered echoes of America's Cold War battle with Communism as he challenged the country to move ahead boldly but smartly in confronting its problems. That Cold War theme baffled at least one Times' reporter, who wrote:
Mr. Obama is hardly the first president to try to rekindle the spirit of cold-war competition in an effort to force Americans to set aside political differences and join together to face a common threat to their prosperity and security.
Mr. Obama was clearly seeking to pull America out of its latest funk, arguing that no country has a deeper bench, better universities or a more entrepreneurial spirit. But he also portrayed those as fragile assets, and his bet is that Americans expect their government to preserve the country’s lead, a view that puts him in direct competition with Tea Party-fueled calls for a diminished Washington.If the president wanted to use the Cold War as a rallying point, then why, the Financial Times asks, did he say so little about America's role in the world?
The president reaffirmed US policy in Iraq, Afghanistan and North Korea, supported the “democratic aspirations” of protesters in Tunisia and offered to revive reforms to immigration laws.
But the substance of his address was strikingly domestic. While relatively little time was devoted to foreign policy, much was made of the rising economic power of the rest of the world.
The rhetorical centrepiece of the speech was about how the US could no longer keep up with its global competitors. More so than his predecessors have in previous such presidential speeches, he listed areas where the US had fallen behind the rest of the world, to South Korea in internet penetration, to Europe in infrastructure and to China in trains and airports.