Will President Obama's State of the Union speech be known for the defiant tone of a president who refuses to have his presidency stymied by an obstructionist Republican House opposition? Or will it be known for the diminished and attenuated reach of the expectations and objectives from a second-term president who has been chastened by a rough and tumble year, some of which was his own making?
Both were in evidence.
The president was wise to recognize that he needn't have his agenda stuck in the mud because of a dysfunctional and unpopular Congress. The president can partner with the people and with corporations (not a redundancy) on such matters as raising the minimum wage.
He can show that his presidential pen is mightier than the Republican sword that shut down the government and sign executive orders. The president can show he's got game.
On the other hand, it is also evident that the president is pulling in the reins a bit on the issues of gun regulation and climate change. It may be good politics at this point not to focus on gun issues, although the innocent are still dying daily from gun violence.
What is most disconcerting, however, is that the president is pushing an "all the above" energy policy that still is heavily reliant on fossil fuels. While a devastating snowstorm swirled through the southern states, fires burned through forests in drought-ridden California, railcars filled with oil burst into flames in Canada, pipelines leaked into Kalamazoo and Arkansas rivers, and toxic chemicals leaked into West Virginia's water supply -- not a mention of the real terrorist threat this country faces, extreme weather events caused by global climate change.
A new Palinism: I can't see China from here ... too much smog.