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Obama's 2016 State of the Union lacks vision

Editor: Li Kun 丨CCTV.com

01-13-2016 15:37 BJT

By Yu Xiang, Harvard University Visiting Scholar, Director of division of American economic studies, Associate research fellow, Institute of American Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR)

On Jan.12, United States President Barack Obama delivered his final State of the Union address.  He attempted to show his determination against the "lame duck" phenomenon. 


Yet, he has not defined his governing vision after seven years in the White House. Accordingly, his legacy will not amount to much.

Obama spoke about "middle class economics" and "better politics," repeating each phrase five times in last year's State of the Union. But those goals had never come into fruition.

Obama wants to tackle inequality issues, but very little has changed. Police brutality, black incarceration and illiteracy levels continue to plague the nation.

On foreign affairs, some people think he scored some successes on negotiations with Cuba and Iran, pushing ahead on a new universal climate change agreement, but he still has not shut down Guantanamo Bay, stabilized Libya, or solved the Syria crisis.

According to the CNN/ORC poll on Jan.6, 2016, a declining number of Americans believe Obama is moving the country in the right direction, from 67% on Feb. 19, 2009 to 42%. Those who think his policies are headed in the wrong direction have increased from 31% to 55%.

Consequently, the 2016 state of the union was the least-watched address for the past two decades. Last year, the amount of viewers stood at just 31.7 million, declining steadily from 1993, when Bill Clinton's first address was around 67 million viewers.

US society is changing. Earlier, Obama promised to make a ground-breaking declaration about how he sees the USA in 2016 and he wanted to change the form of the address.

But what we saw and heard didn't match the rhetoric that he declared. His address was just a "laundry list". He proclaimed his government's achievements, while summing up the challenges and the upcoming legislative program that lay ahead.

Obama is very limited in what he can achieve during his final year in office. He must bow to political reality. Obama wants Americans to be sure about their security, while he portrayed the country is on the road to recovery, powered by its diversity and infused with opportunities.

According to the latest Pew poll on Jan. 11, 2016, more Americans worry about public security. Americans disapproving of Obama's handling of terrorism has increased from 46% in 2015 to 57% now.

On foreign policy, Obama should travel the world more often. Many US Presidents have historically traveled a lot in their last year of office. Obama may take advice from Benjamin J. Rhodes, deputy national security adviser.

He could focus on the Iran nuclear deal, ratification of TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), follow-through on the Paris climate change accord, normalization of relations with Cuba, enhancement of relations with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

( The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Panview or CCTV.com. )



Panview offers a new window of understanding the world as well as China through the views, opinions, and analysis of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

Panview offers an alternative angle on China and the rest of the world through the analyses and opinions of experts. We also welcome outside submissions, so feel free to send in your own editorials to "globalopinion@vip.cntv.cn" for consideration.

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