In the run-up to the “State of the Union,” The Wall Street Journal reported Monday on the language contained in directives to the EPA on how to decide what constitutes onerous regulation that tamps competitiveness and job creation. What they found were terms like “equity, human dignity, fairness” and “distributive impacts.”

One official stated that her mission is in “explicitly integrating environmental justice considerations into the fabric of the EPA's process.”

All good things, to be sure, but hard items to numerically quantify, especially from an administration that promised to return science to the debate. It was the overall theme of last night’s performance—a delicate balancing act between simultaneous calls for debt reduction and new government “investment;” between an increase in competitiveness and reining in Wall Street run amok; between free trade agreements with South Korea while Union-opposed CAFTA and Columbia deals languish.

His triangulation is all Clinton; his “big things” comment all JFK; two politicians far different from the current occupier of the oval office. The Sputnik analogy doesn’t hold, for the simple fact that a majority of Americans approved of the Space Shot, and it enjoyed broad, bipartisan support (not to mention Sputnik launched Oct. 4, 1957, almost four full years before Kennedy took office).

And it’s doubtful Obama would approve of Kennedy’s tax-cutting fiscal policies, or his strong anti-communist foreign policy that relied solely on the nation’s might. In other words, by today’s standard Kennedy was conservative, a Henry “Scoop” Jackson-style politico. Clinton wasn’t, but would rather be loved than lead, and he nonetheless effectively moved to the center. Think Obama has it in him? Not likely. He tried last night as best he could … which is probably the reason, from so gifted an orator, this speech fell flat.