Ducking the Tough Issues

Obama admirably talked up tort reform and a spending freeze. But the speech was flat, and the ideas fell short of the kind of change America needs.

01.25.11 11:06 PM ET

The seating was bipartisan, the tone was collegial, the president struck some centrist, even conservative notes. But in the end, the speech was lacking in emotional connection, coherent architecture, and anything approaching bold ideas for addressing our fiscal crisis.

I was pleased to see President Obama talk about tort reform, banning earmarks, tax simplification, and a spending freeze. But where was the big swing for the bleachers? Where was the entitlement reform?

The speech struck me as workmanlike and a deliberate move to the middle designed more for his political future than for our future as a country.

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If the president can't leverage his leadership and reasonably decent standing among voters to propose real entitlement reform after the findings of two bipartisan panels and the obvious fiscal crisis we are facing, then it's seems pretty clear he never will.

That's what real leadership is about. Tackling the tough issues. And tonight, when he had the opportunity, Obama gave the tough issues the stiff arm.

State of the Union 2011

As vice chairman of Public Strategies and president of Maverick Media, Mark McKinnon has helped meet strategic challenges for candidates, corporations and causes, including George W. Bush, John McCain, Governor Ann Richards, Charlie Wilson, Lance Armstrong, and Bono.