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In State of the Union, President Obama Criticizes “TV pundits” for “reducing serious debates to silly arguments”

From President Obama’s January 27 State of the Union speech
Hat tip to Media Matters
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Obama’s ‘Mistakes’: Way Too Early to Judge By Joe Klein

Opt-Ed by Joe Klein

Time—Over the past few weeks, Barack Obama has been criticized for the following: He didn’t go to Berlin for the 20th anniversary of the Wall’s coming down. He didn’t make a forceful enough statement on the 30th anniversary of the U.S. diplomats’ being taken hostage in Iran. He didn’t show sufficient mournfulness, at first, when the Fort Hood shootings took place, and he was namby-pamby about the possibility that the shootings were an act of jihad. He has spent too little time focusing on unemployment. He bowed too deeply before the Japanese Emperor. He allowed the Chinese to block the broadcast of his Shanghai town-hall meeting. He allowed the Chinese President to bar questions at their joint press conference (a moment memorably satirized by Saturday Night Live). He didn’t come back with any diplomatic victories from Asia. He allowed Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other 9/11 plotters to be tried in the U.S. criminal-justice system rather than by the military. He has dithered too long on Afghanistan. He has devoted too much attention to — and given congressional Democrats too much control over — health care reform, an issue that is peripheral to a majority of Americans.

And all this has led to a dangerous slippage in the polls, it is said, a sense that his presidential authority is ebbing.

As a fully licensed pundit, I have the authority to weigh in here … but I demur. Oh, I could sling opinions about every one of the events cited above — some were unfortunate — but it would matter only if I could discern a pattern that illuminates Obama’s presidency. The most obvious pattern, however, is the media’s tendency to get overwrought about almost anything. Why, for example, is the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall demolition so crucial that it requires a President’s presence? Which recent U.S. President has gotten the Chinese to agree to anything big? (In fact, Obama has secured significant diplomatic cooperation from the Chinese on North Korea, Afghanistan and Pakistan.) Was his deep bow indicative of anything other than his physical fitness? (My midsection, sadly, prevents the appearance of obsequiousness in such circumstances.)

Stepping back a bit, I do see a metapattern that extends over the 40 years since Richard Nixon’s Southern strategy began the drift toward more ideological political parties: Democrats have tough first years in the presidency. Of the past seven Presidents, the two Bushes rank at the top in popularity after one year, while Obama and Bill Clinton rank at the bottom, with Jimmy Carter close by. There is a reason for that. Democrats come to office eager to govern the heck out of the country. They take on impossible issues, like budget-balancing and health care reform. They run into roadblocks — from their own unruly ranks as well as from Republicans. They get lost in the details. A tax cut is much easier to explain than a tax increase. A foreign policy based in bluster — railing against an “axis of evil” — is easier to sell than a foreign policy based in nuance. Of course, external events count a lot: the ratings of Bushes I and II were bolstered, respectively, by the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the flattening of the World Trade Center. Reagan’s rating — 53% and headed south — was dampened by a deepening recession.

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‘America’s First Pacific President’ Reaffirms U.S.-Japan Alliance

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Audience members take pictures of President Barack Obama in Tokyo, Japan

Audience members take pictures of President Barack Obama in Tokyo, Japan

ABC/Jake Tapper—Calling himself “America’s first Pacific president,” President Barack Obama reaffirmed the alliance between the United States and Japan as one based on “equality and mutual respect,” and vowed to deepen the partnership moving forward.

Our alliance has endured because it reflects our common values — a belief in the democratic right of free people to choose their own leaders and realize their own dreams; a belief that made possible the election of both Prime Minister Hatoyama and myself on the promise of change,” the president told a crowd of Japanese leaders and citizens at Suntory Hall in Tokyo. “And together, we are committed to providing a new generation of leadership for our people, and our alliance.”

Obama said his commitment extends beyond Japan to the entire Pacific region, and that the U.S. is bound to these nations by a common past, prosperity and people.

He invoked his upbringing as a native of Hawaii with ties to Indonesia, telling the group that “the Pacific rim has helped shape my view of the world.”

The president said what happens in the region has a direct impact on American citizens.

 President Barack Obama  talks with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak during the Gala Dinner at the APEC Summit in Singapore

President Barack Obama talks with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak during the Gala Dinner at the APEC Summit in Singapore

This is where we engage in much of our commerce and buy many of our goods. And this is where we can export more of our own products and create jobs back home in the process,” Obama said.

The president also spoke about common challenges, focusing on the nuclear threat posed by Iran and North Korea.

As he has in the past, the president said Pyongyang has a clear choice: continue to pursue weapons and further isolate itself, or return to the six-party talks on a path to peace.

We will not be cowed by threats, and we will continue to send a clear message through our actions and not just our words: North Korea’s refusal to meet its international obligations will lead only to less security — not more,” Obama said.

Before departing Japan, Obama will sit down for lunch with the emperor and empress.

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