January 28, 2014
State of the Union Preview: Opportunity and Action [Column]
President Obama will address the nation tonight in hisÂ annual State of the Union address, outlining his agenda for the coming year and perhaps the remainder of his presidency. It is expected to be one of the most important speeches of his presidency.
I have had the privilege of sitting in the gallery as theÂ president has delivered his message to the American people during past sessions and evenÂ had the opportunity toÂ shake his hand after one of them. Each speech comes with a specific theme: For example, in 2011, he sough to rally theÂ nation to “win the future,â€ challenging Americans to achieve the next level of greatness through innovation. In 2012, he laid out a blueprint forÂ American manufacturing, energy and workforce development in his efforts to create aÂ America that was “built to last.”
His address this year will incorporate some of those policy objectives.Â His message of opportunity, however,Â will have a greater sense of urgency as heÂ seeks toÂ ensure the relevancy of his presidency after a yearÂ of major setbacks and talk from critics and pundits of his pending lame-duck status. Even though such chatter is unwarranted atÂ this point, his administration would admit that ObamaÂ has his eyes on the clock.
Although heÂ will once again share his desire toÂ find common ground with the GOP-led Congress toÂ work together in bipartisan fashion, he will forcefully state that he will apply executive action to move his policies forward.
The following isÂ my preview of what the president will offer in hisÂ blueprint for “a year of action.” Obama will communicate his plansÂ to complete hisÂ mission of producing a land of opportunity for all.Â Before he reviewsÂ his agenda items, the president will have to concede, however,Â the 2013 policy fiascos such as the ObamaCare rollout debacle but he will quickly have to counter thatÂ 3 million have signed up for the program thus far. He will also seek to regain the country’s confidence with the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices by stressing the need to keep America safe while emphasizing newÂ safeguards to the public’sÂ privacy. Moreover, he willÂ hail his administration’s success inÂ pushing for economic recovery – the US Commerce Department’s final estimate for third quarter GDP growth in 2013 was 4.1% – and his role in the falling unemployment rate – it fell to 6.7% in December, the lowest point in five years. At the same time, he must admit toÂ the nagging problem of long-term joblessness, growth of discouraged workersÂ and the need to expand employment opportunities.