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NYT: Stevenson Bizarrely Hits U.S. 'Spending Cut' Obsession, Defends Moderate Obama from 'Extreme' Conservatives

Welcome to Times-land, where a nation $16.5 trillion in debt is practicing "austerity" in an "age of spending cuts." That's according to Richard Stevenson's "news analysis" of Obama's State of the Union address, "In an Age of Spending Cuts, Making the Case for Government."

Stevenson was dismissive of "the conservative mantra that nearly all problems can be traced back to excess government" and criticized Obama's "more extreme conservative critics" for misrepresenting the moderate Obama.

Continuing the paper's five year push to make Obama's liberal views look more moderate and palatable, Weisman insisted without evidence that Obama "has a healthy respect and admiration for markets and economic growth as often the most powerful forces for good. He has long put personal responsibility at the core of efforts to address socioeconomic issues."

Thirty-two years after President Ronald Reagan proclaimed that “government is the problem” and 17 years after President Bill Clinton offered a surrender of sorts on that issue by stating that the “era of big government is over,” President Obama made a case Tuesday night for closing out the politics of austerity.

In a State of the Union address largely focused on economic themes, he asserted that “we can’t just cut our way to prosperity” and suggested that it is time for a more balanced approach, including accepting that government has a vital role to play in ensuring economic growth and a secure middle class.

....

The president’s nod toward bipartisanship and his willingness to put entitlement programs on the table as he works on the budget with Congress were unlikely to head off harsh Republican criticism. Even before the speech, Republicans were mocking his “single dime” line and said he was failing to do enough to bring down a national debt that threatens to reach dangerous levels in coming decades. In the Republican response, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida referred to “the president’s plan to grow our government.”

But by filling in the details of the philosophical framework he set out last month in his second inaugural address, Mr. Obama made clear that after his re-election in November, he does not intend to allow a relentless Republican drive for spending cuts to define his second term. And in laying out his agenda, he continued trying to define a 21st-century version of liberalism that could outlast his time in office and do for Democrats what Reagan did for Republicans.

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To achieve that level of influence before he leaves the White House will require not only that he enact an ambitious legislative agenda in the next year or two but also that he provide -- and sell to voters beyond his base -- a compelling alternative to the conservative mantra that nearly all problems can be traced back to excess government.

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Unlike Reagan, Mr. Obama is no hero to his own party’s more ideological warriors, who still see him as timid and disturbingly centrist. And in fact, if his liberalism can be characterized by any one element, it is his willingness to acknowledge and absorb into his own worldview some of the very underpinnings of the modern conservative movement.

His more extreme conservative critics notwithstanding, Mr. Obama has a healthy respect and admiration for markets and economic growth as often the most powerful forces for good. He has long put personal responsibility at the core of efforts to address socioeconomic issues.

He has adopted ideas, like the individual mandate at the heart of his health insurance overhaul, that originated among conservative thinkers. He has sought to impose greater accountability on teachers and schools for the quality of education; on Tuesday night he announced that the federal government would begin issuing scorecards for colleges assessing educational value relative to cost.

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[Bill] Clinton presided over a booming economy and he balanced the budget. But Clinton-ism, at least by Mr. Obama’s own assessment in 2008, proved not to be transformative. Whether Obama-ism does any better in the long run will be judged in part on his success in changing the austerity narrative along the lines he set out Tuesday night.

Weisman even managed a full story out of Ted Nugent, the guitarist and invited guest of conservative Rep. Steve Stockman: "G.O.P. Puts On a Calmer Face, Except for One Wild-Eyed Rocker."

In the wake of their electoral drubbing in November, Republicans sought an image reboot at President Obama’s State of the Union address, a new face that would be both more positive and less strident, youthful and multicultural but also quietly constructive and respectful.

Then there was Ted Nugent, the 64-year-old rocker who once told the president to “suck on my machine gun.”

....

There were no shouts of “you lie!” Tuesday night, no overt moments of disrespect beyond the usual partisan responses to policy. But in a House chamber filled conspicuously with the victims of gun violence and family members still grieving for lost loved ones, Mr. Nugent seemed like a provocation, a saber-toothed tiger invited to a garden party.

Weisman suggested that one awkward moment marred the official Republican response by Sen. Marco Rubio:

The lasting image of Rubio’s address may not have been his youthful face and stately backdrop but an odd lurch off camera mid-speech for a quick drink of water. He recovered from the glitch, but it marred an otherwise smooth performance.

Democrats invited illegal immigrants to the State of the Union, but that wasn't worthy of a story, or apparently a single mention, in the Times.