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February 07, 2013

State of the Union Address Likely to Focus on Domestic Issues

by Daniel Robison

President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union Address -- the first of his second term in office -- on February 12.   The speech to a joint session of Congress will be watched by millions across the nation and around the world.

In his first address to Congress in 2009, Obama aimed to inspire confidence amid the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. "Though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this.  We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before," he stated.

Since then, he has used the State of the Union address to talk about events that have shaken the nation, such as mass shootings.

Now, empowered by his re-election, he is pushing Congress to strengthen gun control and pass immigration reform.  

 "Obviously immigration is going to be a big issue, gun control and gun violence those hot button issues," said James Carafano with the conservative Heritage Foundation. "He is going to have a lot to say about the budget because we will still be in the middle of the budget thing."  

Deficit reduction and cuts to government spending, facing a March deadline for agreement with Congress, are also likely to be highlighted in the speech.

But John Sides of George Washington University says Obama has to strike a balance between economic progress and the ongoing hardships of many Americans.  "The economy is improving, his approval is up slightly.  But I think we're still in pretty tenuous territory," Sides added. "Mass unemployment is very much still with us and likely will be with us for some time. "

In last year's address, Obama marked the end of the U.S. combat role in Iraq and declared that Osama bin Laden was no longer a threat.  This year he will likely again discuss Afghanistan and the timeline for withdrawing most U.S. combat forces.

Anthony Cordesman, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says the Arab world is likely to figure in Tuesday's speech. "He is certainly going to talk about the problems with the upheavals in the Arab world," he noted. "And without really active U.S. diplomacy, without a mixture of U.S. economic and military aid, without a constant effort to sort of build up stability and more democratic regimes in the region, things are going to become a far more serious threat."

Obama will also need to send a message that Republicans and Democrats in Washington should cooperate more, says John Sides. "Then we might be starting to witness maybe a little bit of restoration of Americans trust and faith in government in addition to their feelings about Obama himself," he said.

Sides says Republicans are listening more carefully to voices within their Party that warn against endless confrontation with Obama.