Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Obama to Look beyond His Tenure in Final State of the Union

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Obama to Look beyond His Tenure in Final State of the Union

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * Eyeing the end of his presidency, Barack Obama urged Americans Tuesday night to rekindle their belief in the promise of change that first carried him to the White House, declaring that the country must not allow election-year fear and division to put economic and security progress at risk."All the talk of America's economic decline is political hot air," Obama said in his final State of the Union address. "So is all the rhetoric you hear about our enemies getting stronger and America getting weaker.

"The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period. It's not even close," he said.

The president's address to lawmakers and a prime-time television audience was meant to both shape his legacy and put his imprint squarely on the race to succeed him. He defended his record and implicitly urged the public to elect another Democratic president to build on it but acknowledged the persistent anxieties of Americans who feel shut out of a changing economy or at risk from an evolving terrorist threat.

Obama struck back at rivals who have challenged his economic and national security stewardship.

In his most pointed swipe at the GOP candidates running to succeed him, Obama warned against "voices urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don't look like us or pray like us or vote like we do or share the same background."

His words were unexpectedly echoed by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who was selected to give the Republican response to Obama's address. Underscoring how the heated campaign rhetoric about immigrants and minorities from GOP front-runner Donald Trump in particular has unnerved some Republican leaders, Haley called on Americans to resist the temptation "to follow the siren call of the angriest voices."

Obama ticked off a retrospective of his domestic and foreign policy actions in office, including helping lead the economy back from the brink of depression, taking aggressive action on climate change and ending a Cold War freeze with Cuba.

Tackling one of the most vexing foreign policy challenges of his presidency, Obama vowed a robust campaign to "take out" the Islamic State group, but chastised Republicans for "over-the-top claims" about the extremist group's power. …

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