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If nothing else, President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address to congress showed he has learned some lessons: claim to want to work in a bipartisan manner, then blame everything on the other side.

This was not the stirring, inspired Obama we heard last year. This was an Obama struggling to find the right formula; a hesitant and even stumbling Obama who seemed anything but sincere. He didn’t hold the audience in his hands the way we’ve seen him do in the past. This Barack Obama has been bloodied and bruised and has learned to duck.

When he said he never claimed change would be easy, he seemed to be saying he was finding it more difficult than anticipated. Well they all do once they move into the White House. He took his proposals from the “B” category: now that we’ve spent ourselves into a hole it’s time to freeze spending – except on the military, Medicare, and Social Security where most of the money goes. Why? Because Obama doesn’t want anyone to get mad at him, and those are the key departments where Mad comes from.

For the record, I receive both Medicare and Social Security Retirement Disability. So while I am personally grateful my head isn’t on the chopping block, I’m still rational enough to know it’s not because Obama really loves me. He dreads the backlash from his own party that freezing these programs would create. And he dreads the backlash from the Other Party that freezing military spending would create.

So what gets frozen? Government salaries I suppose. Some contract spending. Paper clips. That new desk Joe Biden had his eye on.

Last night we saw the new Barack Obama: the Experienced President Obama who now knows being the most powerful man on Earth has its limitations. That’s all potential power. It’s more difficult for him to deploy political will than it is to deploy troops in Afghanistan. This is why so many presidents end up engaging in military adventures: they can give those orders and sit back in satisfaction as they are instantly carried out.

Getting Congress and the rest of the nation to do what they’re told is a whole other story. Last night we saw Barack Obama make tacit admission to that.

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