It seems that every State of the Union address must now come with a slogan. In 2011, it was “Win the Future.” In 2012, the slogan was “Built to Last.” For 2013, it was “Let’s Get It Done,” and this year the president will treat us to a “Year of Action.” He and his staff have been test-driving the phrase for months. The president used it again in his Saturday radio address. Though Congress may block him, the president says he’s determined to use every tool at his disposal to get something done. “Where Congress isn’t acting, I’ll act on my own to put opportunity within reach for anyone who’s willing to work for it,” the president said on Saturday.
Sounds exciting, plus the slogan “A Year of Grinding Torpor” or “More of the Same” don’t really fit the spirit of the enterprise. But on the eve of the annual speech, a New Yorker profile of the president doesn’t paint the picture of a man of action—at least not the way that word is being used in the White House’s slogan. Instead of coming across as a man engaging his considerable faculties in an energetic effort to overcome the limits of his office, the president seems content with tending the store, confident that the verdict of history will smile on him. He’s not worried about being measured against the vestiges of an old notion of the presidency. This may be a realistic view of things, but it doesn’t really match the call for action.