Thursday, January 28, 2010

Obama's day: Florida follow-up to big speech

Good morning from The Oval. On this day 23 years ago, the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after take-off, killing all seven astronauts aboard; president Ronald Reagan postponed that night's scheduled State of the Union address.

President Obama delivered his State of the Union last night, and, as USA TODAY's Richard Wolf reports, talked about proposals to create jobs and reduce the budget deficit. USA TODAY's Susan Page notes that Obama focused on "hard times and tough choices."

Today, the president -- with Vice President Joe Biden -- follows up by visiting Florida for a town hall meeting at the University of Tampa.

Obama and Biden will announce an $8 billion grant in stimulus funds for a nationwide high-speed rail system. They will also tour an airplane maintenance center that has been used for aid flights to Haiti.

In his State of the Union, Obama also challenged Republicans to show leadership in light of their recent political success. Republicans said Obama displayed "long-windedness, hypocrisy and egotism," reports Kathy Kiely of USA TODAY.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told Gannett colleague James Carroll of the Louisville Courier-Journal that Obama delivered an "in-your-face" and "needlessly partisan" address, "at a time when Americans were looking for the president to move to the center and build coalitions."

Obama covered a lot of ground in his 69-minute address, including issues bound to make news in the weeks and months ahead. Among them:

Jobs. Obama called job creation his top priority, and gave shorter shrift to health care.

Bi-partisanship. Appeals for legislative comity became a major theme of his speech.

Campaign finance. Obama proposed new rules for corporate spending on campaigns, criticizing a recent Supreme Court decision on the topic; Justice Samuel Alito, sitting in front of Obama, vigorously dissented from the president's analysis.

Gay rights. The president advocated repeal of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

The battle against al Qaeda. Obama pledged to take the fight to terrorists. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, meanwhile, asked that the upcoming trial of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed be moved out of Manhattan, reports Kevin Johnson of USA TODAY.

Afghanistan. As Obama discussed his new war policy, Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai said it will take years to train his nation's military forces.

A laundry list of other pledges also highlighted the speech, and we'll discuss some of them in the hours ahead, along with reports of the Obama town hall in Florida. Keep clicking in, and have a good day.

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