Frishman, Singal on Obama’s State of the Union – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
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Frishman, Singal on Obama’s State of the Union

Offering their observations on President Barack Obama’s final State of the Union Address, Professor of Economics Alan Frishman and Professor Emeritus of History Daniel Singal were quoted in the front-page Finger Lakes Times article, “How did Obama do? Locals have their say,” on Wednesday, Jan. 13.

“He obviously, in part, wanted to go after this incredibly dark picture of the country and the world that the Republican candidates have been painting,” Singal said. “I think he did it very effectively. He will not convince any Trump or Cruz voters to change their minds – there’s not a chance of that – but he was obviously aiming at swing voters, the people in the middle, who might be tempted by what they’re hearing, say from Trump. He was essentially giving them an alternate perspective.”

“I think he pointed out that we had the strongest, most durable economy in the world, which is true,” Frishman said. “The U.S. economy seems to be the only one that’s really doing well at this point – not great, but well. He pointed out that there’s a lot of change occurring. We’re in a period when the world economy is changing rapidly.”

Singal has been a member of the faculty since 1980 and was awarded emeritus status in 2014. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University and his B.A. from Harvard University. He is the author of “William Faulkner: The Making of a Modernist” and “The War Within: From Victorian to Modernist Thought in the South,” as well as editor of “Modernist Culture in America,” and “The Making of a Quagmire: America and Vietnam During the Kennedy Era.”

Frishman, who joined the faculty in 1976, received his Ph.D. and M.A. in economics as well as a certificate in African studies, from Northwestern University. He received his B.S. in mathematics from the City College of New York. His academic and scholarly interests focus on the economic development, urbanization and industrialization of countries in Africa (primarily Nigeria), Asia and Latin America.

The full article is as follows:

Finger Lakes Times
How did Obama do? Locals have their say

Jim Miller • Jan. 13, 2015

In his final State of the Union address Tuesday, President Barack Obama focused as much on long-term goals as on short-term policy proposals.

“He was talking about sort of his view of the world, and that’s a little bit unusual in a State of the Union,” said Dan Singal, an emeritus professor of history at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

Singal believes Obama did that for a reason: To bolster his party at the start of an election year.

“He obviously, in part, wanted to go after this incredibly dark picture of the country and the world that the Republican candidates have been painting,” Singal said. “I think he did it very effectively. He will not convince any Trump or Cruz voters to change their minds – there’s not a chance of that – but he was obviously aiming at swing voters, the people in the middle, who might be tempted by what they’re hearing, say from Trump. He was essentially giving them an alternate perspective.”

Obama touted economic gains made under his presidency. He decried efforts to divide people based on religion or race. He did not mention the Republican candidates by name, but Singal believes he clearly referenced their policies and comments.

“He sure did not look like a lame duck,” he said. “In fact, he seemed to be more in the partisan arena, I thought, than in any previous State of the Union that he’s given. He was just going at Republicans left and right, basically defending his own record, arguing that he’s accomplished a great deal.”

Singal sees evidence to back that up. Rep. Tom Reed, R-23 of Corning, was less convinced.

In a press release last night, he said Obama has outlined the same themes for eight years but has failed to back up his rhetoric with substance and positive policy changes.

“Regardless of the election cycle, America still faces real challenges including threats from those who would seek to destroy our way of life and an economy that remains fragile for so many right here in Upstate New York,” Reed said. “We care about making sure that we protect America and that our communities have a fair chance for quality, family-sustaining jobs. That is why we remain committed to fighting for policies that keep us safe from terror and policies that will help create jobs in our region for generations to come. Rather than just talk, we must come together and find the solutions and the way toward a more secure future of opportunity for all Americans.”

Local Democrats like Carolyn Schaeffer believe Obama wants to do that. Schaeffer, chair of Yates County’s Democratic Committee, liked Obama’s comments about the need to build or rebuild trust, get beyond the partisan noise and work together.

She noted his remark that not being able to better bridge the partisan divide during his presidency was one of his few regrets.

“As President Obama always is, he’s inspirational and optimistic and hopeful that we’ll rise to the challenge to finally respect each other and work together,” she said. “We have to work together to secure our future.”

Hobart and William Smith economics professor Alan Frishman picked up on the same theme.

“He ended up with that strong appeal that we’re all Americans and we all need to work together,” Frishman said.

Frishman, naturally, was paying attention to what Obama had to say about the economy.

The speech was relatively light on economic policy – Frishman thinks that’s because the economy is doing better now than when Obama took office – but Obama did mention growing economic inequality and the need to make the changing global economy work for us rather than against us.

Frishman said that’s a challenge, but not an impossible one.

“I think he pointed out that we had the strongest, most durable economy in the world, which is true,” Frishman said. “The U.S. economy seems to be the only one that’s really doing well at this point – not great, but well. He pointed out that there’s a lot of change occurring. We’re in a period when the world economy is changing rapidly.”

In spite of the low expectations that traditionally come with an election year, Obama called for action on bipartisan priorities such as criminal justice policy and drug abuse. He also pledged to continue work on his own priorities.

But he said he mainly wanted to look ahead beyond the next year, toward the future, which he urged Americans to face with confidence instead of fear. Obama said the nation must answer four basic questions in the years ahead: How to give everyone a fair shot in the new economy, how to make technology work for us and not against us, how to keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its police force, and how to make American politics reflect the nation’s best instead of its worst.

The theme resonated with Schaeffer.

“We have to remember our American values and work from that core,” she said.