Previewing and live-blogging the State of the Union address

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President Obama will warn the nation tonight that “the decades-old promise of a secure and rising middle class is threatened by economic unfairness as he delivers an election-year State of the Union message that is likely to resonate in the months ahead on the campaign trail,” the Washington Post reports.

“Obama will outline the steps he believes are necessary to reform a fragile American economy now showing signs of slow recovery after the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.”

According to excerpts, he will say: “The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important… We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. What’s at stake are not Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. We have to reclaim them.”


9:51 p.m. –  I agree with Andrew Sullivan: I think this is the worst SOTU Obama has given. But maybe it will work. It sure seems like it has been put through a software program to pander to various industries.

9:46 p.m. – Some facts to counter GOP lies: “Right now, American oil production is the highest that it’s been in eight years.  That’s right – eight years.  Not only that – last year, we relied less on foreign oil than in any of the past sixteen years.”

9:35 p.m. – Here’s the full text of tonight’s speech.

9:32 p.m. – “Teachers matter. So instead of bashing them, or defending the status quo, let’s offer schools a deal.”

9:31 p.m. – “It’s time to turn our unemployment system into a reemployment system that puts people to work.”

9:27 p.m. – “I will go anywhere in the world to open new markets for American products.”

9:25 p.m. – Pay attention to that basic minimum tax proposal for multinationals. That’s a big deal.

9:22 p.m. – The rest of America should be more like Detroit?

9:20 p.m. – “The State of the Union is getting stronger. And we’ve come too far to turn back now.”

9:17 p.m. – “We can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share & everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

9:16 p.m. – Joe Biden looks pissed that Hillary Clinton’s hair looks THAT good.

9:13 p.m. – Obama’s trump card: ” For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country.”

9:08 p.m. – It’s getting to the point where there is a political drinking game every damn night of the week.

9:01 p.m. – Mark Kelly – NASA astronaut and husband of Rep Gabby Giffords – is sitting next to the First Lady.

9:00 p.m. – Josh Barro has low expectations  for Obama’s speech:

I hope to see Obama differentiate himself by calling for bold moves to raise inflation expectations and unshackle underwater homeowners, as either of these policies would do a lot to create jobs and get the economy moving again. But I don’t think that’s likely. The fact that he’s leading hispreview with manufacturing initiatives suggests to me we won’t be hearing much that’s useful in tonight’s speech.

8:55 p.m. – Per tradition/security, the one cabinet member left out tonight is Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack.

8:26 p.m. – In Tampa, Mitt Romney prebuts Obama’s State of the Union speech.

8:18 p.m. – Brad Plumer provides the guest list for the First Lady’s viewing box, “a useful preview of some of the policy themes Obama’s likely to touch on”:

There’s Warren Buffett’s secretary, the one who reportedly pays a higher tax rate than Buffett does. There’s Joan Milligan of Orlando, Florida, who staved off foreclosure by refinancing her mortgage through the HARP program, which Obama wants to expand. There’s also Mike Krieger, an immigrant from Brazil who went on to found the ever-popular Instagram — who knows, maybe there’ll be a mention of the virtues of the H1-B visa program for high-skilled workers.

8:16 p.m. – Will the SotU destory Mitch Daniels as a fantasy candidate? Possibly:

[Mitch] Daniels is soft-spoken and not terribly magnetic, and my hunch is that the Republicans devoutly wishing he’d gotten in [the GOP race] will not be wishing it this time tomorrow.

SOTU responses are a lose-lose situation, the only decent ones in recent years were (1) the one given by Sen. Jim Webb in 2007, which was packed with gravitas, toughness, and dignity, and (2) the one given by Gov. Bob McDonnell last year, which ramped up the cheesy atmospherics (cheering crowds, speaker walking down the aisle and shaking hands) to turn the whole thing into an ersatz State Of The Union, but which somehow worked because it turned the whole thing into a joke that McDonnell was entirely in on. It was actually kind of amazing to watch. Daniels, though, will likely shoot for the first and see his buzz evaporate faster than Bobby Jindal’s did.

8:08 p.m. – Bill Galston wants the president to talk more about opportunity than inequality:

The plight of hard-working, hard-pressed Americans—those struggling to remain in the middle class and those struggling get there—must be front and center. And the president must address it in the right way. A December 16 Gallup survey found that while 82 percent of Americans believe that it’s extremely or very important to expand the economy and 70 percent believe that it’s extremely or very important to increase equality of opportunity for people to get ahead, only 46 percent believe that about reducing the gap between the rich and the poor. While 72 percent of Democrats want government to emphasize measures to reduce inequality, only 43 percent of independents agree. And 52 percent of Americans say that “the fact that some people in the United States are rich and others are poor” is acceptable, actually up from 45 percent in 1998.

7:38 p.m. – Michael Cohen fits Obama’s rhetoric on inequality to a long-term strategy:

[A very] important question is whether the sudden willingness of Democrats to tackle the issue of income inequality has the potential to live on far past the next election. For decades, Republicans have successfully portrayed the bogeyman of big government as the enemy of America’s middle class. The emerging focus on America’s glaring economic disparity – and its direct and deleterious impact on the middle class – suggests that Democrats are willing to use their own bogeyman of Wall Street greed in response.

Indeed, it’s quite likely that the election will be a struggle between these two conflicting views. If Democrats are successful in such an endeavour, it has the potential to make 2012 more than just another election, but one that could shift the very narrative of American politics.

7:30 p.m. – Is the State of the Union useless? James Joyner thinks so:

I find the pseudo-monarchial trappings of the speech increasingly repellent. We’re in the midst of an election campaign to decide whether Barack Obama gets to keep his office another four years and yet, for 90 minutes or so, we’re supposed to pretend that he’s our king. The entirety of both Houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, the Joint Chiefs, and the Cabinet–minus, of course, some token unelected apparatchik kept in a safe location somewhere to reconstitute the government in the event a Japanese airliner rams the Capitol– is supposed to clap like trained monkeys while the Campaigner in Chief delivers a partisan stump speech thinly disguised as a plea for national unity.

7:26 p.m. – Senator Marco Rubio pre-rebuts President Obama’s SotU:

“When I hear people telling the American people that the way to protect your job is to raise your bosses’ taxes, I think that’s counterproductive. When I hear policymakers in Washington pitting the American people against each other, telling people that the only way you can do better is if someone else is worse off, I get concerned. Because not only is it not true, that type of thought has never worked anywhere in the world. In fact, people flee from countries that think in that way.

The American experience has been something very different. The American experience has been that this is a country where everybody can do better. Or the people that have made it can stay there and the people that are trying to make it can join them. We’ve never believed that the way for us to do better is other people having to do worse. We’ve never believed that in order for us to climb the ladder, we have to pull somebody else down.”

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including,,, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.