Two months have passed, and Obama is a changed man. Although humiliated by a Republican victory at the mid-term elections, on Tuesday night he came across as a strong and imposing leader. He did not appear to be ashamed of his previous presidential record, but instead turned his nose up at Congress in order to impose ambitious reforms. These include the normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations, the mass regularization of illegal immigrants, and the fight against pollution. “We have in front of us a new Barack Obama, ready to act in an audacious manner,” says Allan Lichtman,* politics professor at American University.
During his traditional State of the Union address, Obama toned down references to recent disagreements in U.S. politics in order to galvanize public opinion and promote the impression that America is indeed ready to fight back. According to Obama, America has “risen from recession freer to write [its] own future than any other nation on earth.” At the risk of irritating his allies, he boasted of America’s success: “America has put more people back to work than Europe, Japan and all advanced economies combined.”
Last year, the country managed to generate 3 million jobs. Today, it is recognized as the principal driving force behind world growth. “The shadow of crisis has passed, and the state of the union is strong,” declared Obama, to which he was greeted with thunderous applause. In sharp contrast with his previous five speeches, the President even allowed a certain degree of familiarity within a context usually reserved for formal interaction: “This is good news, people.”
“This is good news, people!”
It’s clear that Americans are thankful for all that their president has achieved. After his reputation hit rock bottom, Obama has since experienced a spectacular recovery. According to a recent survey published by the Wall Street Journal, his popularity ratings have increased from 40 percent to 46 percent in the span of just four months. “It’s a type of renaissance,”* says Elaine Kamarck from the Brookings Institute, “Barack Obama finally has good news for America.” However, the president is still yet to fully redeem himself with the middle classes, whose salaries continue to remain unchanged or have even lessened. But even if Congress is not committed to helping, Obama showed that he is, proposing a series of measures intended to improve buying power and mobility. These include an increase in minimum wage, improvement to the current sick leave policy — 43 million Americans are still denied access to such an entitlement — and the introduction of a free community college plan.
Though Obama’s glowing report is indeed justified in terms of the economy, many are surprised, even shocked, by his optimism regarding foreign affairs following the recent Charlie Hebdo attacks in France. “We were waiting to see if Obama was going to celebrate the success of his foreign policy. To my surprise, that’s exactly what he did,”* says Bill Galston, expert at the Brookings Institute. Most notably, the president affirmed that America had put a stop to advances made by Islamic State militants. While this may be true in Iraq, say diplomacy experts, it’s certainly not the case in Syria.
* Editor's note: The original quotations, accurately translated, could not be verified.