UPDATE: The full text of the speech is here.
UPDATE: Wikipedia has a summary of the speech's policy proposals: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_State_of_the_Union_Address
Youtube videos of the speech:
I hope you like text. And excuse the unusually highfalutin' language, much of this was adapted from something I originally wrote as an article.
A week from today, Obama will deliver the State of the Union Address, and if there's one thing most everyone can still agree on it's that the man can deliver a mean speech. In fact, it's arguably his main job. Strictly speaking the President has the power to veto bills or sign them into law, but his response to any bill that reaches his desk has already been accounted for during the legislative process. The signing is a formality. The remaining power of the office remains in the so-called “bully pulpit.” Or, by another name, making speeches.
Obama has faced criticism from the left for his use (or lack of use) of the bully pulpit. His hands-off approach to health care legislation is widely blamed for the many dead ends and frustrating concessions the bill has encountered in the Senate. Now, in light of the recent result in Massachusetts, the President has instructed his party not to “jam” health care through – in essence, to wait until Scott Brown, the new 41st Republican Senator, is seated. (link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/20/obama-to-dems-dont-jam-th_n_430134.html
Since it would take 60 votes in the Senate to pass the health care bill, and since democrats can now only count on 59, the current bill is likely dead. This fact demands a mention in the State of the Union Address. Obama's liberal base (a base I include myself in) has watched with disappointment as initial high hopes for an effective bill have been methodically dashed. The media narrative is that failure to pass a health care bill will be a negative for Obama, even though by the time it finally died the bill's popularity had waned. A defeat of democratic legislation, we are told, constitutes a political defeat for Obama.
However, part of Obama's appeal has been a result of his ability to rise above, or at least be seen to rise above, the media narrative. This was most clearly demonstrated in his response to the inflammatory comments of Reverend Wright, which instead of being a negative for Obama led to one of the definitive moments of his political life. Over the course of his presidential campaign, he eschewed in large part the usual strategy of attempting to win every news cycle and control the message and language of the campaign. Instead, he created and nurtured a long-running narrative which took many rhetorical forms but which can be described like this: We can rise above partisan politics.
This belief, in my opinion, is at the heart of Obama's political identity and explains his decision to seemingly sacrifice health care reform at the altar of bipartisanship. He believes in bipartisanship. He truly believes that personal appeals to the same Republicans which have dug themselves in in opposition to health care reform can result in a consensus between politicians of both parties.
To those who have followed the legislative wrangling of the health care bill, this seems hopelessly naïve. Republicans, liberals say, care nothing for the substance of the health care bill. They will fight on principle against any bill whose passage can be attributed to democrats. So far, this has been true, as republican activity in the Senate thus far has been limited to anonymous holds and procedural gamesmanship.
In light of this Obama's belief that he can get a republican senator to vote on anything with his name on it is a source of endless frustration. To use a popular analogy on this forum, he resembles a Charlie Brown that is forever certain that this time Lucy won't pull the football away. But in epic fashion, this aspect of his character is simultaneously a weakness and a strength. He shares it with many of the most popular politicians in our country's history, with the likes of Kennedy and Reagan and even W. Bush: an unflappable, maddening certainty in his beliefs.
To a personality like Obama's, there are no insurmountable obstacles. The intransigence of 41 republican senators, to him, is something that must simply be overcome. This attitude is simultaneously a source of inspiration and despair, and this attitude will almost certainly be on display in the State of the Union address. For the sake of our sanity, liberals would be well advised to draw from it the former and not the latter.
Supposedly, the address will primarily concern job creation and deficit reduction (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1109/29471.html
). However, this is a prognostication that predates the unexpected result in Massachusetts.
Basically this thread is for soothsaying what the upcoming State of the Union Address will, um, address. From a political handicapping perspective, I think Obama will use as an opportunity to reach out to Republicans, both to reinforce his image as someone above the party-line haggling of Washington and to create an environment in which undiluted opposition to everything (the "party of no") will be politically damaging. The speech will most likely result in an uptick in his approval rating, since almost all State of the Unions do that. And as an easily-duped liberal rube who likes when Obama gives pretty speeches, I'm ready for another dose of hopium to convince me that all is not lost.