The State of the Union address presents a unique opportunity to gain a window into the vision of the Oval Office. It is a moment at which the president can justify past decisions and outline plans for the future, to both Congress and the American people. With President Obama set to deliver his State of the Union address tonight, here are a few of my thoughts regarding the material that may be discussed tonight:
- Gun reform has been the central theme of the president’s second term thus far following the tragedy at Sandy Hook. This will be a key issue addressed in the speech as Obama makes a forceful case for the need for stricter policies. What remains to be seen is the level of reform the president demands – a ban of assault rifles has been called for by some, but the feasibility of implementation may force Obama to back down.
- Climate change was mentioned in the president’s inaugural address, but he was short on specifics. The president may take this opportunity to give clarity to his climate change vision, perhaps alluding to the reforms he can enact unilaterally as president (strengthened enforcement policies for the EPA, for example).
- Some positive first steps on a bipartisan level have been made on immigration policy – these first steps will be acknowledged and supported by the president.
- The economy is improving, but not fast enough for many Americans. With one fiscal cliff averted and another on the horizon, expect strong words directed at the GOP for their apparent unwillingness to compromise on future fiscal policy.
- Cuts will inevitably have to be made to balance the budget. Obama will outline what cuts he feels are acceptable (some defence cuts, for example), and which are unjust (cuts to social programs).
- Iraq and Afghanistan are still fresh on the minds of the American people. With Obama set to announce the withdrawal of 34,000 troops from Afghanistan by next year, the end of these conflicts will be a key feature in the speech.
- Obama has taken criticism for what has been perceived by some as a “soft” stance on Iran. With rumblings of a possible meeting with Iranian officials surrounding their nuclear program, Obama will reaffirm the necessity of a strong stance, tempered with the hope of progress in the weeks to come.
- The nuclear test of North Korea this week has altered the security calculus for the international community. Expect this to be a last minute addition to Obama’s speech.
- Obama has stressed the need for electoral reform following reports of unnecessarily long lines at the poll booths which potentially costs the Democrats crucial votes. Electoral reform may be mentioned.
What Won’t Be Mentioned
- Brennan’s confirmation nearing has unleashed a barrage of criticisms surrounding Obama’s secretive security policies, particularly in regards to the usage of drones. Obama may attempt to justify their usage in the security element of his address, but I expect little more than an acknowledgement of their usage.
- Ted Nugent’s presence as a guest despite calls to behead administration officials perplexes many. His name won’t be endearingly mentioned in the opening remarks.