- The Washington Times - Monday, February 11, 2013

Along with higher taxes and bigger government, Mr. Obama will renew his call for gun-control measures and immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship. And many Democrats expect the president to call attention again to climate change, as part of his clean-energy agenda.

As for Republicans’ goals of cutting spending, curbing the growth of entitlement programs and reducing the size of government? Most observers don’t expect the president to give those subjects more than the briefest of lip service.

“Don’t hold your breath,” said Ron Haskins, a senior fellow in economic studies at the left-leaning Brookings Institution. “Why would he? He’s in great political shape. I don’t think he’s going to do anything serious [on spending]. He has every reason to sit tight and play to his base.”

The day after delivering his new agenda, Mr. Obama will begin a series of trips to sell his initiatives to the public, in North Carolina, Georgia and Illinois.

The danger in failing to reach out to Republicans on deficit reduction, some analysts say, is that the Republicans have the power to block Mr. Obama’s top priorities such as immigration reform. If the president takes too combative a posture with Republicans, it will “doom” much of his agenda, said Alice Rivlin, another senior fellow at Brookings who served on Mr. Obama’s debt commission.

“We have a long-run problem, and if he’s seen as not addressing it by much of the country and by the Republican opposition, he will doom his other agenda to bickering,” she said.

Since winning re-election handily on Nov. 6, Mr. Obama and his team have been giving every indication that they think they have the Republican Party on the run. They say their hand was strengthened when they won the “fiscal cliff” showdown on Jan. 1, pushing through a tax-rate increase on families earning $450,000 or more, and when GOP lawmakers temporarily backed away from a threat to block an increase in the nation’s borrowing limit. Many in the Republican Party view the debt ceiling as one of their few remaining options to force Mr. Obama to address spending.

As the president pursues an unabashedly liberal agenda, Democrats are simultaneously trying to exploit a rift in the Republican Party, as evidenced by a memo circulated Monday by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee on gun control.

“On the eve of a major grassroots push in favor of gun violence prevention, it’s clear that Tea Party House Republicans will maintain their out-of-touch approach and obstruct sensible reforms to reduce gun violence that most Americans support — undermining their party’s appeal, hurting their candidates and endangering suburban Republican seats,” the memo stated.

Michael Franc, vice president of government studies at the conservative Heritage Foundation, said he expects Mr. Obama to lay out the broad liberal philosophy that supports his initiatives.

“The redistribution philosophy; the sense that government spending creates wealth, not detracts from it; the sense that the agents of government are smart enough to make a lot of decisions about our daily lives — those core instincts guide the philosophy,” Mr. Franc said. “One of the consequences of the president being a lame duck is that he becomes ‘progressive unplugged.’ So we’re seeing the true Barack Obama right now, and it’s an unapologetic and very proud progressive.”

Mr. Obama will devote much of his speech to the economy, a theme he previewed for House Democrats last week.

“I’m going to be talking about making sure that we’re focused on job creation here in the United States of America,” Mr. Obama said. “It means that we’re focused on education and that every young person is equipped with the skills they need to compete in the 21st century. It means that we’ve got an energy agenda that can make us less dependent on foreign oil, but also that we’re cultivating the kind of clean energy strategy that will maintain our leadership well into the future.”

As for deficit reduction and the looming fiscal crisis?

“We’ll talk about that stuff,” said Mr. Obama, “but all from the perspective of how are we making sure that somebody who works hard in this country — a cop, or a teacher, or a construction worker, or a receptionist — that they can make it if they work hard, and that their kids can make it and dream even bigger dreams than they have achieved.”

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