Among the many problems facing our beleaguered president -- Scott Brown, a sputtering economy running on the fumes of deficit spending, Scott Brown -- not a single one is as pressing as this: Nobody is scared of Barack Obama.
Seriously. Obama's strength has been his ability to inspire -- that worked with the electorate, but doesn't work with tea baggers, rheumy-eyed right-wingers or, sadly, Harry Reid. Obama hugs, politicians shove.
So for the State of the Union, Obama can gracefully (Dick Morris-fully?) pivot to smaller centrist initiatives -- tax credits! Education! Uh ... money for firemen! -- or he can, like a certain spittle-spewing hizzoner, go on the attack and take what he wants.
Continue to blame the squandered surplus and ruinous tax cuts on the GOP -- but do it with throat-throttling force. Continue to blame squandered billions in Iraq on the GOP. Blame them for stalled health care. Blame them for Guantanamo. Blame them for corporate election spending. Blame them for Jersey Shore.
Then get red in the face, personally attack a reporter in the audience, and castigate the media for influencing public opinion -- they're obviously doing something wrong if your most trusted news source is Fox.
This is only partly jest. Because it's here that Obama can shift from being the all-inclusive Papa in Chief and start being the curled-lip leader willing to steal back, under cover of darkness, the Meigs Field of his agenda.
The spending freeze is a symbolic start, and in order not to undermine his rhetoric of change -- expand the range of what's possible, don't play by the opposition's rhetorical rules -- he'll need to seriously commit to a fiscal agenda that includes limiting entitlements. Like, really really strenuously. Really.
This move to focus on the economy and jobs was the plan all along. But now, given that he has nothing to show for months on health care, he'll need to provide cover for his pivot.
Get angry, Barry. Attack.