Obama's realistic goals

Editor's note: Information in this editorial has been corrected from an earlier version.

 

With growing numbers of Americans disenchanted by what they see as a sorry state of the union and his lame-duck administration repeatedly stymied by a Republican-controlled House of Representatives, President Barack Obama knows there's little to be gained by chanting his first-term mantras, hope and change.

As such, his State of the Union address Tuesday wisely set more realistic goals that will rely in large part on political partnership rather than risk falling prey to partisan bickering.

We applaud such appeals to reason and spirit of cooperation, and encourage the loyal opposition to adopt this approach.

Admittedly, President Obama's sensible call for immigration reform, and his worthwhile goal of boosting employment while narrowing the economic gap between the haves and have-nots, may not gain much traction among congressional Republicans eyeing November's mid-term elections, but this newspaper would welcome honest debate on these and other issues instead of knee-jerk rejection.

It's unfortunate that Washington's presently toxic atmosphere has forced the president to lower the bar on his initiatives. At first blush his call to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour would appear to be a good start toward closing the widening economic gap.

"If you cook our troops' meals or wash their dishes, you should not have to live in poverty," the president said.

But this measure would apply only to federal workers - a tiny fraction of employees who toil for low pay at fast-food restaurants, retail outlets and other unskilled jobs.

The president also may have vowed to sidestep Congress "whenever and wherever" necessary to pass economic reforms, pledging, "America does not stand still and neither do I," but his modest suggestions should not draw much of a fight.

In his hour-long speech President Obama also declared 2014 "a year of action," but realistically he will do well simply to preserve the Affordable Care Act he fought so hard to pass.

The State of the Union address often sets the agenda for the president's next year in office. On Tuesday night, it set the tone.

Americans accustomed to name calling and grandstanding should welcome, if nothing else, an attempt at congeniality.

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