James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

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Assessing the State of the Union Address

by James M. Lindsay
January 26, 2011

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington.

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington. (Pool New/courtesy Reuters)

The assessments that Sebastian Mallaby and I wrote last night about President Obama’s State of the Union Address are up now at CFR.org. Sebastian had the juicier topic—the domestic side of the speech. As he rightly points out, Obama’s speech left a critical question unanswered: If he wants to invest more and leave entitlement benefits untouched, how will he reduce the deficit? Something will have to give, and it won’t be pretty.

I got to assess the foreign policy portion of the speech. Unfortunately, Obama didn’t say much. Most of what he did say sounded like a campaign stump speech. It was long on the administration’s foreign policy accomplishments, real or embellished, and short on frank discussion of the overseas challenges that lie ahead.

The speech had one saving grace: it was devoid of the usual laundry list of government programs and initiatives that make most State of the Union addresses a slog. So a tip of the cap to the president and his speechwriters for that.

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