By Dan Robinson
In his State of the Union Address Tuesday night to a joint session of the U.S. Congress, President Barack Obama will attempt to prod lawmakers to join him in further steps to strengthen the economy, create jobs, and support the middle class.
Obama will deliver what is technically his fourth State of the Union Address, aware that most Americans view the economy and unemployment as the country’s biggest problems.
He also knows that despite political capital from his reelection victory, public dissatisfaction remains high with the failure of leaders in Washington to deal with these problems.
In a speech White House aides say began to be drafted last November, he is likely to return to themes he sounded as he campaigned for reelection.
He will urge Republicans and Democrats to work with him to keep the economy moving forward by strengthening and expanding the middle class, rebuilding American infrastructure and boosting manufacturing.
The president gave this hint as he addressed Democratic lawmakers last week.
“I’m going to be talking about making sure that we’re focused on job creation here in the United States of America,” said President Obama. “It means that we’re focused on education and that every young person is equipped with the skills they need to compete in the 21st century.”
On the eve of Tuesday’s address, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney described the State of the Union as the second act of a play that includes Obama’s inaugural address last month.
Obama, he said, will directly speak to American’s concerns about lingering effects of the recession.
“He would address those Americans directly and talk about the need for Washington to take positive action to help the economy grow, to help it create jobs, the need for Washington to refrain from taking negative action by allowing for example, the sequester to kick in which would do direct harm to Americans, direct harm to the middle class, direct harm to our defense industries and national security interests,” said Carney.
Carney said the president will say “work is not done” to boost the economy, that positive trends are not irreversible, and that a stronger foundation is needed for growth.
Listening Tuesday night will be Republicans who control the House of Representatives, and who since mid-term elections in 2010 have posed major roadblocks to the president’s domestic agenda.
John Sides of George Washington University says Obama has some time to achieve key objectives, such as immigration reform and stronger gun control laws, before the next mid-term election in 2014.
“He has a couple of years, certainly up until the next mid-term election, to get things done,” said Sides. “Whether he can get things done after that mid-term depends a lot upon how Congress looks in the wake of the mid-term – have the Democrats lost seats or gained seats? If they gain some seats, you might actually be able to see him accomplish a little bit more.”
Obama will again warn about potentially damaging effects for the economy of Congress allowing about $110 billion in automatic spending cuts to occur at the beginning of March.
On foreign policy, Obama is expected to mention the accelerated process he announced in December of drawing down U.S. troops from Afghanistan, turning over security to Afghan forces, heading for a complete foreign combat force withdrawal by 2014.
He may also address ongoing impacts of the Arab Spring, though he is unlikely to announce any change in his approach on the situation in Syria where more than 60,000 people are estimated to have died in fighting between rebels and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
Other possible foreign policy topics include North Korea, the status of the so-called U.S. pivot to the Asia-Pacific region and his ongoing desire to reduce nuclear arms stockpiles.
The New York Times reported that Obama might use the speech to renew his commitment to the nuclear arms reduction agenda. Jay Carney told reporters on Monday not to anticipate any specific new announcements about weapons reduction figures in the State of the Union Address.