Wednesday, January 13, 2016 7:01 am
President Barack Obama told Americans nervous about terror and a changing economy that they should not fear the future, in a farewell State of the Union address that drew sharp contrast with Republicans.
A self-assured and optimistic Obama cast himself as the foil of foes who warn the country is going in the wrong direction because of his seven years in office.
Hailing an epoch of “extraordinary change” that is laden with risk and opportunity, Obama called for a new “moonshot” to cure cancer, a shift away from dirty energy and for a thaw in the last remnants of the Cold War by ending the embargo on Cuba.
Obama insisted “America has been through big changes before,” as he took thinly veiled shots at Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and other leading Republican candidates.
“Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change, promising to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control. And each time, we overcame those fears.”
With less than three weeks until the Iowa caucuses — the first votes cast in the process to replace him — Obama berated Republican economic rhetoric, saying “anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction.”
But his toughest words may have been for their rhetoric over the rise of the Islamic State group.
While admitting the jihadist group operating in Syria and Iraq poses an “enormous danger,” he said “they do not threaten our national existence.”
“Our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet bomb civilians. That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world’s stage.”
“Over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands,” he said.
He called on Congress to authorise the use of military force against ISIL.
“If this Congress is serious about winning this war, and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, you should finally authorize the use of military force against ISIL,” Obama said in his final State of the Union address, using another acronym for the group.
In a volley clearly aimed at Trump, Obama warned that “when politicians insult Muslims… that’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world.”
The Republican frontrunner was not impressed, characteristically describing the speech as “really boring, slow, lethargic – very hard to watch!”
Overall it was an unorthodox speech that eschewed the typical laundry list of legislative priorities as Obama tried to lift the country’s gaze beyond the next year, and beyond his presidency.
But he also tacitly, and explicitly, admitted mistakes.
There was no mention of the racial tensions that have dogged the tenure of the first black president.
Obama did take some blame for Washington’s broken, hyperpartisan politics.
“It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency — that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better,” he said in a moment of personal candor.
“There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.”
Read the Full speech here: President Barack Obama’s Last State of the Union Speech to US Congress delivered 12 January 2016