(Foreign Policy in Focus) -- To hear his progressive critics tell it, Barack Obama has long been given to preemptive compromise. Even when his rhetoric has soared at its highest, the cautious president has always been careful to offer his Republican critics an olive branch—often one torn directly from the trunk of his own agenda. On health reform, carbon emission caps, Wall Street regulation, and a host of other issues, the administration has repeatedly negotiated away the most progressive responses to the issues of our day long before the real compromises are even made.
So by the standards of this Obama, his 2013 State of the Union address was surprisingly combative and partisan. From a moving call for gun control legislation to an unexpectedly specific proposal to raise the minimum wage—with an additionally satisfying jab at skyrocketing CEO pay—the president laid out an agenda that appears unabashedly liberal in today’s Washington.