It’s unlikely that anybody will shout “You lie!” at President Obama as he delivers his State of the Union speech this week (unless it’s at home in front of the TV). Rep. Joe Wilson (R) of South Carolina had to apologize and he was formally reprimanded by the House of Representatives when he did that during a joint session of Congress the President was addressing in 2009.
But Mr. Obama will face a tough crowd Tuesday night – at least among Republicans, who still control the House and have filibuster power in the Senate – as he lays out his plans for job creation and economic growth at a time when unemployment remains high.
Based on his comments to fellow Democrats this past week and insider comment, a variety of news sources have begun outlining what Obama will address – noting that it’ll be his second major speech since being reelected, the first being an inaugural address in which he challenged lawmakers (and the country) along clearly liberal lines.
“The president will offer proposals for spending on infrastructure, clean energy and education, according to a senior official briefed on the speech,” Bloomberg News reported. “He will also stress the agenda laid out in his inauguration address, pushing Congress for action on immigration, gun control, and climate change.”
It does seem as if a bipartisan breakthrough of sorts has occurred on immigration – no doubt prompted by the GOP’s miserable standing among Latino voters revealed in last November’s elections.
“These are children, who due to no fault of their own, were brought here,” Rep. Cantor said. “We’ve got a place all of us can come together, and that is the kids.”
The imagery of children may play a role in gun control as well.
Recent shootings – especially at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut – may (stress “may”) have cracked the NRA-led pro-gun wall against any new laws regarding the legal control of firearms. There seems the greater possibility these days of wider gun sale registration and limitations on magazine size – both of which are seen as reasonable and desirable by most Americans, according to the polls.
But administration and Democrats could have a harder sell on reducing the deficit and government debt – especially to the extent that Obama continues to emphasize the need for new revenues, including taxes.
"He just got his tax hike on the wealthy, and you can't in this town every three months raise taxes. Again, every time, that's his response,” Cantor said Sunday. "We've got a spending problem, everybody knows it. The House has put forward an alternative plan, and there's been no response in any serious way from the Senate and the White House.”
Obama will be addressing national security and foreign policy issues as well Tuesday night. At the moment, he’s facing challenges here.
Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel is said to have no intention of withdrawing despite a Senate confirmation hearing most observers (including Democrats) found embarrassingly weak.
But on CBS’s “Face the Nation” Sunday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R) of South Carolina said he’d block a vote on former Sen. Hagel if the White House doesn’t answer questions about its response to the terrorist attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. And while CIA nominee John Brennan did much better in his confirmation hearing last week (and is a highly-regarded intelligence professional), Sen. Graham said he’s inclined to block that nomination too without more answers on Benghazi.
“I don’t think we should allow Brennan to go forward to the CIA directorship, Hagel to be confirmed for secretary of Defense, until the White House gives us an accounting," Graham said. "Did the president ever pick up the phone and call anyone in the Libyan government to help these folks?”
Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain – Hagel’s chief inquisitor during the Pentagon nominee’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing – criticized what he sees as the administration’s failure to intervene on behalf of rebels in Syria, calling it "one of the most shameful chapters in American history” on “Fox News Sunday.”
“Obama overruled Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other top advisors last year when he ruled out U.S attempts to arm Syrian rebels, it was revealed last week,” Politico reported Sunday. “Republicans have slammed Obama for the move, saying US intervention could have already led to the overthrow of Syrian President Basher Assad. Fighting between government forces and Syrian rebels has led to thousands of deaths and a growing refugee crisis.”
It’s unclear whether Obama will address this issue in his State of the Union address Tuesday.