Heading into President Obama’s fifth State of the Union address tonight, the media is buzzing with speculation. Regardless of what the President decides to address, however, the speech will be a prime opportunity for Obama. CNN reports “An average of 44 million people have watched Obama deliver previous State of the Union addresses.”
Mr. Obama will focus on job creation, telling Americans that “It is our generation’s task, then, to reignite the true engine of America’s economic growth – a rising, thriving middle class.” He is also expected to call for greater government action on behalf of the middle class, saying that, “It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation of ours.”
The President is also expected to call for additional government programs paid for through higher taxes by saying, “Tonight, I’ll lay out additional proposals that are fully paid for and fully consistent with the budget framework both parties agreed to just 18 months ago. Let me repeat – nothing I’m proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime. It’s not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth.”
The President, in a warning to republicans will say, “But let’s be clear: deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan.”
According to Jessica Yellin, CNN Chief White House Correspondent, the President will most likely follow many of his predecessors, and frame the address as a “party policy wish list” for the upcoming year. House Press Secretary Jay Carney stated the Address is ‘Act Two’ – a follow-up to the national goals and policy objectives of which the President spoke 22 days earlier at his inauguration. According to Carney, the speech merely provides Obama the opportunity to preview what he intends to accomplish in the year ahead.
It seems Obama will stick with the tried and true format; however, there could be some surprises, especially given the inaugural addresses’ departure from previous presidents. Take for example FDR’s State of the Union in 1941, where he outlined the Four Freedoms, right on the brink of the U.S. joining WWII: the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom to worship God, the freedom from want and, finally, the freedom from fear. FDR stated, “That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation.” Perhaps Obama will surprise us and deliver grandiose words instead of the expected laundry list of party agendas.
One thing is for certain, don’t expect the President to court the GOP on the budget. Republicans are already bracing and preparing to play victim as Obama will most likely be harsh in his critique of tax and budget reform, with mandatory spending cuts, known as budget sequestration, due to take effect starting March 1.
In Obama’s first State of the Union address, President Obama stressed his promise to fix the broken political process in Washington, “We face a deficit of trust.” Perhaps Obama will use the State of the Union to address just that; Answering pressing issues from the 2012 election rather than playing it safe. Many in the GOP are betting he won’t touch controversial issues such as restraining government regulation, spending cuts, and energy independence, not to mention U.S. policy in Syria, Iran’s nuclear program, Security at Benghazi, or poverty in the United States.
GOP leaders have banked Obama will merely rehash his talking points from his recent campaign topics, such as gay rights, women’s rights, climate change (formally known as global warming), and education. Gun control is also likely to receive prominence as recent events have fellow democrats calling for tougher gun control laws, including a new assault weapons ban. Some insiders have suggested however that he will also introduce new cyber security initiatives and the need for additional transportation infrastructure spending. The Keystone pipeline will not make POTUS’ top ten list but immigration reform will.
The official Republican response to the Address will be given tonight by Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who is a potential presidential candidate for 2016. Advisors to Rubio suggest his response will be different.
In case you already missed it, the Tea Party Republicans issued their scathing response to the SOTU, a full twelve hours before it was delivered. Rand Paul, R-Ky., representing the Tea Party wing of the GOP, called the speech, “full of the same empty promises and bald-faced lies we’ve come to expect. Tonight, Barack Obama made his case: for his own impeachment.” Despite the harsh rhetoric however, the Tea Party is seen by many moderates as too far to the right, and their inflammatory rhetoric could backfire on moderate republicans and independents.
One thing is for sure here in Washington, fireworks aren’t just reserved for the 4th of July.
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