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State of the Union: What are the next 10 words?

“I do not accept second-place for America . . . it’s time to get serious about fixing the problems that are hampering our growth. . . I want a job bills on my desk without delay . . . the success of our children cannot depend more on where they live than their potential.”

For 71 minutes last night, President Obama rolled out punchy statements of purpose on a host of critical issues facing the country. What I waited for -- and what I don’t feel I ever got -- was the next 10 words. “The next 10 words” was immortalized by fictional president President Josiah Bartlet in the long-running television series, The West Wing. It was the end of his last presidential debate, against a challenger who possessed a knack for summing up complex issues with pithy statements, when Bartlet pounced: “There it is. Ten-word answers can kill you in political campaigns. They’re the tip of the sword. Here’s my question: What are the next 10 words of your answer. . . How are we going to do it?”

How exactly is what I yearned to hear from the president last night. To be sure, there's an array of interest groups jostling to get their 10 words into the State of the Union address. But I wanted to know how is he going to win agreement on health-care reform, what will his elementary and secondary education act look like, and why should anyone think there will be a new spirit of cooperation in Washington? Even before he opened his mouth, I knew his speech would sound good and he would deliver it with mastery. But, then that’s the beauty of the first 10 words.

By Jo-Ann Armao  | January 28, 2010; 9:53 AM ET
Categories:  Armao  | Tags:  Jo-Ann Armao  
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Comments

obama last night got defiant because he is being challenged...
but that is the nature of politics...
the American people should only look at results...
for obama and others talk is cheap...
results are hard...

Posted by: DwightCollins | January 28, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

I suppose, Ms. Armao, that if the President were King, and the omnipotent controller of the minds and bodies and actions of all of his subjects, he easily could have given us the next 10 words telling us exactly how these things would be done: "You will do as I say because I am King." Ergo, your misplaced yearning should be for a King's fiat.

Posted by: alvinwright | January 28, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse

I agree that ideas should include "the next ten words". Policy is much more complicated and there should be a national discussion about it. But through the course of time, the public has demonstrated that they want no part of it. They would rather hear the slogans and the talking head sound bites. Obama was giving them what they wanted. And for a speech judged by online flash polls and number of applauses, that was probably the best strategy.

Also: I love the West Wing reference!

Posted by: colemanNC | January 28, 2010 10:50 AM | Report abuse

The next ten words (as they exist in Obama's mind): I will do it through lies, distortions, bribes and democrats.

Posted by: jhr1 | January 28, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Strong on Defense, continued Bush's program to bail out Wall Street, tax cuts for 95%, tax cuts and incentives for small businesses to hire, nuclear power, clean coal, offshore drilling, 3 year freeze on non-Defense spending, pay as you go, no capital gains tax for small business. OMG, Obama's a Conservative.

More stimulus, increases taxes on incomes over $250k, health care, incentives for college students to pay off debt, tax the big banks, fund local banks to give small business loans, cap and trade, clean energy, healthcare. OMG, Obama's a Liberal.

67 minutes were bi-partisan. Yes, Obama's a Moderate.

Only spent 2 minutes chiding the Republicans for fighting 2 unfunded wars and unfunded tax cuts which doubled the National debt in 8 years. The Republicans sunk in their chairs, squirming like embarrassed school boys caught looking up the girls dresses. I thought some might die of shame.

Obama's final words - Stop the partisan bickering. Both parties are responsible to do their job and fix America. Yes, Obama is more statesman than politician.

Time for all to put America first and their petty politics second. Time for the Party of Debt Doesn't Matter to take responsibility for their actions and get to work with the Democrats to fix America. Time for all Conservatives to demand the Party of No join Obama in a bi-partisan fix of America. Alternatively it is time for all true Conservatives, as in debt does matter, to abandon the Republicans.

Posted by: chucky-el | January 28, 2010 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Is that what we expect from the President? Tell us what we need and how to get it.

The Presidents authority does not extend to the specifics. The specifics are the function of the Legislative process. The President, except for the power to veto, is excluded from that process.

Posted by: Skinsfanz1 | January 28, 2010 5:00 PM | Report abuse

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