State of the Union: Obama's Battle Cry for the Next Two Years

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2011. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool) AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address
AP

Here is the State of the Union address in a nut shell: President Obama spoke for over an hour and yet no Republican really liked what they heard.

But, like it always is in Washington, the response began even hours before the president made the drive up to Capitol Hill, when House Speaker John Boehner slammed the president's 5-year budget freeze proposal as simply "inadequate."

But when it came to actually delivering tonight's address, the president gave more of a rally cry to the future than a lecture on specific policy filled with a laundry list of new ideas.

He began, as most expected he would, with a call for Americans to join together and rise above political disagreements.

"Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater - something more consequential than party or political preference. We are part of the American family," he said.

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He quickly turned to firing up the country to take on the challenges we all face. "To win the future, we'll need to take on challenges that have been decades in the making," he said.

Here's where President Obama turned to the main thrust of the speech, trying to ignite a fire in the collective American psyche to, as he said numerous times, "win the future."

He said: "What we can do - what America does better than anyone - is spark the creativity and imagination of our people. We are the nation that put cars in driveways and computers in offices; the nation of Edison and the Wright brothers; of Google and Facebook. In America, innovation doesn't just change our lives. It's how we make our living."

CBSNews.com Special Coverage: State of the Union 2011

Turning yesterday's achievements into tomorrow's economy was a key theme and is the backbone of his push for investments in innovation, education, and research and development.

"Maintaining our leadership in research and technology is crucial to America's success," he said.

Calling on the country to rally together, President Obama hoped to unleashed a wave of patriotic optimism.

"Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik¸ we had no idea how we'd beat them to the moon. The science wasn't there yet. NASA didn't even exist. But after investing in better research and education, we didn't just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs. This is our generation's Sputnik moment," he said.

This modern space race talk mimics John F. Kennedy's rally around the first space race of the 1960s. In the same speech where he said the country will go to space and the moon, "not because they are easy, but because they are hard," President Kennedy also said that the country who rallies to the call of competition in space will lead the world in the future.

"The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in this race for space," Kennedy said in September 1962.

Mr. Obama is calling on the U.S. to embrace the new competition -- to fight and win the battle over creating new technology, like clean energy, to lead the world in the 21st Century. He hopes to foster innovation to create jobs and expand the global market for new U.S. made goods.

Beyond the soaring rhetoric, the speech, as all State of the Unions do, set his administration's agenda and laid the groundwork for the political battles ahead. Specifically, the president set goalposts in the budget cutting debate: "I'm willing to eliminate whatever we can honestly afford to do without. But let's make sure that we're not doing it on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens," he said.

He also said education spending is sacred and should not be cut. "Cutting the deficit by gutting our investments in innovation and education is like lightening an overloaded airplane by removing its engine. It may make you feel like you're flying high at first, but it won't take long before you'll feel the impact," he said rehashing the airplane analogy he's used before.

With more of the speech focused on jobs and the future of the economy than on budget cuts, Mr. Obama is also laying out his playbook for taking on the Republicans in Congress who have made cutting spending a major priority. Earlier today, one of the president's top advisors, David Axelrod, told CBS News's Chip Reid that the Administration is happy to have that battle.

"We are going to put our budget forward in the next few weeks, they'll have to put their ideas forward, and we'll let the American people decide," he said. (watch video at left)

While he welcomed productive ideas from the other side, Mr. Axelrod made it clear how the White House will frame the Republican proposals. "What we can't do is cannibalize the things that are going to make a huge difference for our future."

In other words, "Bring It On!"

The White House will make the budget issue all about the economy hoping that in two years time, a stronger economy will mean more to voters than a still bloated budget deficit. Further, the president's allies will say that cutting for cutting sake will hurt the economy.

"What the president is doing is laying down a marker, and saying these investments are important and if republicans mess with them, they'll be messing with the future of jobs in America," said CBS News Political Analyst and Slate Correspondent John Dickerson.

It's also much easier for the White House to try to foster some short term economic growth than it is to seriously cut the budget in the next two years. Their hope is to grow the economy, reduce unemployment and then begin to seriously address the budget shortfall.

As the president himself likes to say, the best way to cure the deficit is economic growth. So the talk of innovation, competitiveness and investment is aimed to jump start the economy in the short term, but in the big picture, to make the country stronger as America competes in the 21st Century.

The White House hopes that a shot of patriotism and confidence will bolster economic growth and bring Mr. Obama a second term in office.

Robert Hendin is a CBS News White House producer. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter here.

  • Robert Hendin On Twitter»

    Robert Hendin is senior producer for "Face the Nation" and a CBS News senior political producer.

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