President Obamas budget speech was one part Obama, one part Clinton, one part China. The Obama part came at the end. It was a gesture toward recapturing the image he enjoyed between 2004 and 2008: As the guy who didnt hate and wasnt hated, the guy who could help red and blue America get along. This sense of responsibility to each other and to our country this isnt a partisan feeling, Obama declared. It isnt a Democratic or a Republican idea. Its patriotism. I cant imagine that anyone in Team Obama actually believes he can be a uniter again. But looking like hes trying to be, while being foiled by the Republicans, has its advantages. It also feeds into the Clinton part of the Obama speech: Ill protect Medicare. That was a major part of Clintons re-election campaign in 1996. Clinton acknowledged that spending would be cut, but he lashed the Republicans for threatening popular entitlements. Thats what Obama did Wednesday, declaring that I will preserve these healthcare programmes as a promise we make to each other in this society. I will not allow Medicare to become a voucher programme that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry, with a shrinking benefit to pay for rising costs. I will not tell families with children who have disabilities that they have to fend for themselves. Medicare is for Democrats what taxes are for the GOP: The gift that keeps on giving. Since Americans instinctively distrust Republicans on the issue, frightening people about what they might do is easy. It worked for Clinton in 1996 and will likely work for Obama, too. So far, so familiar. The most innovative part of Obamas speech was how he used China. Americans know that China is doing well, in some ways better than us. Theyre afraid, and a little envious and Obama played into that: Go to China and youll see businesses opening research labs and solar facilities. He went on to talk about the new investments being made by governments like South Korea and Brazil. The message was clear: These countries that are sneaking up on us arent doing it by slashing spending. Theyre doing it by using government money to build a world-class infrastructure, and we must, too. Its an interesting response to the usual Republican line. Republicans tend to argue that America leads the world economically because were most free, meaning we have the least government. Now Obamas saying we may be losing our lead to countries that have more government. Usually, in American politics, arguing that we should be more like other countries is a political loser. But this may be an exception, first because Americans really are worried that were losing our edge, and second, because while Americans have a deep-seeded hostility to mimicking Europe, that hostility doesnt apply in the same way when it comes to China. President Obama, helping us beat back China by aping China. Maybe thats the slogan for 2012. Daily Beast