How will President Obama address the American people in the second major public speech of his second term? What policies will he emphasize and how will he frame the debate? While the political pundits might be at work trying to answer these questions, no magic wand will tell us what the president will say until Tuesday evening. What we can count on is that there will certainly be a discussion of some of the major agenda items he outlined in his inaugural address: gun control, climate change and of course, immigration reform.
Unfortunately I’m going to anticipate that we will hear much of the same rhetoric in terms of infrastructure, education reform and clean energy proposals without any reasonable account of how he intends to pay for the historic government spending he will propose. Again – I will emphasize that this is just a hypothesis of what the president’s speech will entail, but if the last four years are any indication of the approach he will take, then I feel quite comfortable putting a large wager on my predication. After all, one cannot reasonably expect that the Republican controlled house is going to bend to another request for an increase in tax revenue although that will certainly be a large portion of Obama’s prescription. Fortunately for the president’s supporters, his oratory skills will undoubtedly persuade the average American that his proposals are fair and logical. Outbursts from South Carolina Representative Joe Wilson, who shouted “You Lie!” at the president during a previous State of the Union address, only bolsters the White House agenda as the party of reason, as Rep. Wilson’s tantrum reflected poorly on the Republican party as a whole. Rather, Republicans have chosen an up-and-comer to present their rebuttal message, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, whom most party insiders suspect will be one of the front runners in 2016 for the presidential nomination.
The part that Senator Rubio has to most carefully answer is his reply to Obama’s message on immigration reform. Rubio was one of 11 senators who released an immigration proposal of their own which advocated for increased border security and a pathway to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants. That initiative has been bolstered with the support of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor who this week publically supported a pathway to citizenship for the children who were brought here illegally by no fault of their own. The degree to which Senator Rubio succeeds in crafting his message to the American people in a way that resonates with the broader electorate will in my view largely dictate his future as the leader of the Republican Party. That all begins with his response to the president’s State of the Union on Tuesday evening.
The gun control debate (which I outlined in a previous post on this blog) is certain to make an appearance on the president’s speech as well. With an outbreak of shootings in recent weeks, which was initiated by the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, the president is in a powerful position to advocate for wider gun registration and limits on certain magazine sales including an extensive list of assault weapons.
Regardless of the way one feels about each of these proposals, Tuesday night will be an important opportunity for President Obama to set the tone of his second term in the oval office. It is in his annual address to congress and to the American people where he has the opportunity to advocate for the policies that matter to him most. With momentum on his side after an embarrassing Republican loss in November’s election, Obama will certainly grab onto the chance Tuesday night to outline an agenda that will signify the legacy he intends to leave on the White House during his second presidential term.