State of the Union: Speech is something for Obama to ‘build’ on

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President Barack Obama greets retiring Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012, prior to delivering his State of the Union address. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON – The Obama team’s newest slogan, “An America built to last,” rolled out this week for President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address, is brawny and evocative of a headline on a car ad.

It’s a phrase that draws a contrast to the intangible investment products that figured centrally to the economic bubbles that have burst and left us bust. You would laugh out loud, of course, if anyone suggested “mortgage funds, built to last.”

Obama used the words “built” or “rebuilt” 13 times as he focused on domestic matters in his third State of the Union speech. The “built to last” theme works in two – probably more – ways.

The first is fairly concrete. In his speech, Obama offered a variety of plans to try to stop the flow of jobs out of the U.S. and to bring back jobs that have left, most having to do with tax code revisions to give more incentives to stay rather than go.

The other goes to to the allegation of the GOP presidential candidates that under Obama’s watch the United States has somehow been diminished.

“Anyone who tells you that America is in decline or that our influence has waned, doesn’t know what they’re talking about,” he said. Obama offered proposals on making taxes fairer, education, regulatory reform and green energy to be unveiled in more detail in the next three days – when he travels to five 2012 battleground states: Iowa, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado and Michigan.

The greatest threat to Obama’s re-election is a poor economy, a bigger challenge right now than Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich. The economy has been on an uptick in recent weeks, but there is no guarantee a slide won’t occur before November.

Obama made several pleas to Congress to work together; he’s not counting on it, but he reached a rhetorical high in the speech when he talked about the day U.S. special forces carried out the raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

Partisanship can run its course,“just like it didn’t matter that day in the Situation Room, when I sat next to Bob Gates, a man who was George Bush’s defense secretary, and Hillary Clinton, a woman who ran against me for president.”

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