A more aggressive President Obama will enter the house chambers on Tuesday night and undoubtedly add more to the partisan gridlock, regardless of what he says. Republicans are soul-searching. Obama is legacy building and unpleased over the fallout of his first term (I highly recommend this fantastic interview to better understand the second-term president’s mindset).
And so it begins.
President Obama’s Inauguration speech was faith renewed for the liberal progressives and a speech of gestures and issues. His State of the Union must be a speech of governance and action, and less of a laundry list of policy objectives. Obama will risk his personal likability and political capital during this SOTU in the efforts to push an agenda that, realistically, he has less than 18 months to effectively champion while somewhat independent of the constant re-election cycle that engulfs Washington every two years. Bereft of goodwill from the other side of the aisle, Obama will emphasize the power of his office and center his speech on job creation, focus on gun control for sure, immigration no doubt, and probably climate change and the environment.
Obama cannot bank on a blue house and senate in 2014 without robust, effective, and reasonably popular reforms. He can't write history like he did in his first term, but he can certainly flip the script on less than stellar second terms for presidents in recent history. Obama is hyper aware of his legacy and knows his life will be judged not on his ability to schmooze Democrats or placate Republicans, but on the legislation, whatever his form of "Great Society" or "New Deal" he bequeaths to his constituency as he leaves office.
Things to look for:
- Just how far 180º will Obama turn from his first SOTU speech pleading for bipartisan accord? Will the political jabs come flying, or will Obama channel his rhetoric towards the American people (which he seems to be doing with his Organizing for Action nonprofit and campaign style selling of his white house agenda) more so than to the Congress sitting in front of him.
- How much attention does Obama give to his first term jewel of healthcare? How will he address rising costs and the further implementation of the Affordable Care Act in 2013 in a wide array of levels of state compliancy.
- Climate, Mr. Obama? Watch for any indication of a administrative stance on the contentious Keystone Pipeline.
- Just how much shelf life does the Gun Control topic have? Is he serious about this or has the reach of his arm been extended through his executive orders? My guess is on the former.
- How does he respond to the GDP retraction in the last quarter of 2012.
- Watch for his guests. Potential Cabinet members galore? Who is sitting next to the First Lady? Hadiya Pendleton's mother, Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton, will be in attendance at the president's State of the Union speech. Hadiya Pendleton, 15, was a Chicago High School student who was killed (via gunshot) 3 blocks from her high school one week after performing at the Inauguration.
- Watch the embattled John Boehner and his reactions (# of times he claps for Obama) knowing that his house leadership is being called into question despite being re-elected as Speaker of the House.