The White House has already hinted at the tone and focus of President Barack Obama’s last State of the Union address.
Positive. Forward looking. And, most of all, the president is expected to counter Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s decidedly negative, and often time offensive, narrative of the country.
While these annual speeches often come off as ceremonial and full of unfulfilled promises, this one — Obama’s eighth — is a marker.
After he utters his final words “…and God bless America,” the race to replace him will have officially begun.
Obama Speech Will Pave Way for Dems in ’16
Alexis Simendinger – Real Clear Politics
Gone in Obama’s eighth year are sweeping legislative ambitions. In their place: political storytelling aimed at a hoped-for Democratic successor and a Democratic Senate in 2017; maneuvers to protect seven years of governance; and lofty rhetorical riffs for the history books….
The president’s speech on Tuesday is the beginning of that final campaign. It’s a giant stage on which he can appeal to an anxious, divided electorate, one that’s unsure if Washington has done too much over seven years, or not enough. He can argue he is not a king, but also not a pushover….
The president said this month that he’s become a single-issue voter: If Democratic candidates don’t support gun control, they won’t get his help. And there are other issues around which Obama has drawn stark red lines: climate change, Planned Parenthood, Medicaid expansion, union rights, LGBT rights, paid family leave, child care, Wall Street regulation, a pathway to citizenship, a hike in the federal minimum wage.
The State of the Union Is Not Strong
Jim Geraghty – National Review
A president’s eighth State of the Union address is supposed to be his victory lap, a final year in the spotlight, in which he touts his achievements and then rides off into the sunset. Tonight, President Obama may utter the clichéd words, “The state of our union is strong!” If he does, it’s just one more lie upon the pile.
Obama will probably boast he brought the country back from the financial brink and try to argue that the American economy is doing well. (Avoiding “the brink” only took $8 trillion in new debt.) He will undoubtedly boast of the unemployment rate being only 5 percent. He will not mention the work-force participation rate of 62.4 percent, which hit the lowest level in 38 years this September. (In recent months, it bumped back up two-tenths of a percentage point.) …
President Obama is likely to talk about the strained relationship between police officers and African-Americans and throw some rhetorical bones to the Black Lives Matter movement. Race relations are at their worst since the O. J. Simpson trial, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in December, and multiple polls indicates Americans are growing more pessimistic about the ability to bridge the race divide. Is this what Americans expected when they elected the first African-American president?
Obama Won’t Coast to the End of His Term
Albert R. Hunt – Bloomberg View
Republicans claim that Barack Obama is too passive on foreign policy. A few Democrats see him that way when it comes to politics. The president, however, is planning an aggressive finale….
Although this is an election year and the political environment is poisonous, Obama envisions a couple of major legislative achievements, notably the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement and an overhaul of the criminal justice system, which both have bipartisan support in Congress….
There’s real potential for setbacks for Obama this year: The battle against the Islamic State, the threat of more terrorist attacks or a plummeting global economy…. If the Iran nuclear deal and the Affordable Care Act fail, he will be seen more as an interesting president than as a significant one. If, however, these achievements — along with the recovery from the financial crisis — are viewed as enduring successes, Obama probably will be remembered as a near-great president.
Obama Previews His Last Year in Office:
The Nation He Built
Michael Grunwald – Politico
Over the past seven years, Americans have heard an awful lot about Barack Obama and his presidency, but the actual substance of his domestic policies and their impact on the country remain poorly understood….
Obama is often dinged for failing to deliver on the hope-and-change rhetoric that inspired so many voters during his ascent to the presidency….. But ever since he took office during a raging economic crisis, he’s turned out to be much more of a doer, an action-oriented policy grind who has often failed to communicate what he’s done.
What he’s done is changing the way we produce and consume energy, the way doctors and hospitals treat us, the academic standards in our schools and the long-term fiscal trajectory of the nation. Gays can now serve openly in the military, insurers can no longer deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions, credit card companies can no longer impose hidden fees and markets no longer believe the biggest banks are too big to fail. Solar energy installations are up nearly 2,000 percent, and carbon emissions have dropped even though the economy is growing.
An Abundance of Executive Actions
Clyde Wayne Crews Jr. – Forbes
In Obama we have a president willing push boundaries on social and economic issues when it comes to legislating without Congress, a president who taunts Congress with a “We Can’t Wait” web page.
What we don’t have is a Congress willing to restore the Constitution’s checks and balances.
Washington’s lack of gridlock (of which the Republican grassroots seems to have had its fill this primary season) propels unbounded spending, Obama’s pen and phone and regulation without limit….
Some of what transpires today appears without precedent, as even the Washington Post characterized Obama’s unilateral executive action on immigration as one that “flies in the face of congressional intent.”
What’s Wrong With the State of the Union
Eric Liu – CNN
This week, we get the State of the Union Address. With creaky ceremony, the President will tell us the state of the union is strong. His team will cheer and stand up dozens of times. The other team will cross its arms and mostly remain seated….
When President Barack Obama held a CNN town meeting on gun responsibility in America last week, he did something unusual in national politics these days. He engaged with people who did not already agree with him.
The occasion revealed just how wired people have become to hear what they want to hear. The President spoke of Australia, a country that in the aftermath of a gun massacre took society-wide steps to reduce gun violence. His critics, gun-rights advocates, heard him calling for confiscation of firearms. He described reasonable steps to stem a public health crisis. His critics heard him trashing the Constitution.