Our Opinion: Obama's final appeal to America's better angels

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Equal parts sermon, history lesson and cautionary tale, President Obama's final State of the Union speech Tuesday night was his most personal. It was well-timed and should be heeded by Americans.

The president dealt only briefly with proposals and accomplishments, although his references to the substantial increase in jobs and dramatic lowering of the deficit were effective counters to the relentless doom and gloom spewed out by Republican presidential candidates. His best line of the evening, in which he observed that when "the Russians beat us into space, we didn't deny that Sputnik was up there," was a good riposte to climate change deniers, but he followed it by reminding his audience that the "can-do" American spirit that appears lost to defeatism today then led to a successful program to put a man on the moon.

Without mentioning Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump by name, President Obama decried the hate speech and fear-mongering that make the U.S. look small and petty to the rest of the world while over-inflating the threat of Islamic terrorists and the "twisted souls" who adopt their cause within our borders. He said ISIS can be defeated but not by forgetting the lessons of Iraq and Vietnam, lessons that his political opponents may not have learned in the first place.

The president ruefully expressed his regret "that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better," but in truth, with the Obama-haters clinging to the "Kenyan Muslim" fiction, that divide was destined to grow. Improving that atmosphere, Mr. Obama continued, "will only happen when the American people demand it." That could happen in 2016. Or America could head down a very bleak path.


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