State of the Union: How Obama Will Use His Bully Pulpit

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U.S. President Barack Obama
As President Obama delivers the his fifth State of the Union address tonight, he'll have a lot of boxes to check. Depending on who you ask, his speech will emphasize jobs, cyber security, European trade, nuclear disarmament, climate change, immigration, gun laws, and voter fraud. Experts have passed him talking points, outlined his speech, speculated about how long it will run (the smart money is on 65 minutes) and analyzed the PR effect that the State of the Union has (as it turns out, not that much).

By their nature, State of the Union speeches tend to be broad, but not that deep, which means that, to some extent, the president will likely check off most of the boxes. Some, like climate change, will probably get short shrift; others, like gun laws, will probably get a bit more attention. And without question, the subject receiving the most oxygen will be the economy.

For Obama, that's a promising topic. As the Associated Press recently noted, the economy is in much better shape than it was when Obama first assumed office. Unemployment is down, car sales are up, and home sales have begun to rally. The recovery is starting to trickle down to the middle class, and things are looking better for many of the voters who saw their lives upended in 2008.

Beyond that, the economy is one of the few political arenas in which Obama is scoring political points right now. For all the sturm und drang of the gun debate, the president's much-discussed collection of executive orders will likely have a negligible effect on gun violence. Substantive change would require action by Congress, and given the millions of dollars of gun lobby money pouring into the House and Senate, that is unlikely to come soon.

In the case of the economy, however, Obama's direct appeals to the American public have borne fruit. Right wing complaints about class warfare aside, Obama's acknowledgment of middle class pain and upper class profits found a wide and supportive audience. And since the election, he has been consistently winning his economic fights with Congress: The fiscal cliff fight ended with an increase in upper-class taxes and a freeze on middle class rates. A little later, the debt ceiling fight ended with a measured retreat, as Congress punted it to May.

Next up is the sequester. Republicans are already attempting to place the blame on Obama, a rhetorical move that suggests that they may be trying to distance themselves from the disastrous gambit -- which could be one step away from willingness to fold. Meanwhile, the president has taken aim at the carried interest tax rate, a loophole for the uber-wealthy that Republicans will find it hard to defend -- especially while they are renewing their efforts to reach out to the middle class.

As numerous pundits have pointed out over the years, one of the most powerful tools at a president's disposal is the bully pulpit: the ability to use his prominence to take his concerns directly to the American people. Over the course of his presidency, Obama has often been ineffectual at using that intangible power of his office to the fullest, but over the last few months, he seems to have adapted to the fact that, in the absence of a friendly Congress, his best tool may be the energized voters who put him in office in the first place. Tonight's State of the Union could well be yet another example of that lesson in action.

Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.


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anyone believes a word this man says is a complete idiot= he talked about jobs 4 years ago how has that worked out?? ya I know blame bush- American idiots have spoken---

February 13 2013 at 1:41 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
aguilamnstr

Obamas solution.....collectivisation and redistribution, it doesn't matter that government administered programs are inefficient and corrupt, what matters to them is that the government employees will never oppose a tax increase and will never vote conservative again. It is that simple.

February 13 2013 at 1:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to aguilamnstr's comment
home

you got it and the liars bums idiots rainbowroom illegals blk all jump on board-- and now the hippie liberal white cowards do too... really they are communists

February 13 2013 at 1:51 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
obamasacrybaby

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh that evil judge found me guilty of violating the constitution. I don't care what they say. I'll do what I want even if it breaks the law and you can't stop me.

February 12 2013 at 11:56 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
babyboehner

WAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

I still cry every night seeing that we republicans lost the 2012 elections.

WWWWWWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

February 12 2013 at 11:54 PM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to babyboehner's comment
obamasacrybaby

I cry every night because the Republicans still have the house and I can't be dictator.

February 12 2013 at 11:56 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to obamasacrybaby's comment
babyboehner

WAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

We lost tea party members in house and the senate in the 2012 elections.

WAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

February 12 2013 at 11:58 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down
obamasacrybaby

So what I still canlt be dictator. I want to be like Hugo. I want to be like Hugo I WANT TO BE A DICTATOR LIKE HUGOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. WAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

February 13 2013 at 12:00 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down
obamasacrybaby

WAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

I'm the King and the dictator and I will do whatever it takes to keep it that way even if it does violate the constitution.

February 12 2013 at 11:51 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
obamasacrybaby

Why won't they let me be king.

Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

February 12 2013 at 11:47 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to obamasacrybaby's comment
babyboehner

Wasn't Bush king?

February 12 2013 at 11:50 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to babyboehner's comment
obamasacrybaby

No I'm am. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

February 12 2013 at 11:52 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down
babyboehner

Im the biggest baby on capital hill and the tannest.



WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

February 12 2013 at 11:47 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to babyboehner's comment
obamasacrybaby

No I am

waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh
waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhh

All I do is cry and whine because they won't let me be dictator.

February 12 2013 at 11:48 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to obamasacrybaby's comment
babyboehner

Like i said Im the biggest baby on capital hill.

February 12 2013 at 11:52 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down
obamasacrybaby

Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh I can't hear you say it again. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

February 12 2013 at 11:56 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down
obamasacrybaby

No I'm the tanest.

February 12 2013 at 11:52 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to obamasacrybaby's comment
babyboehner

I use Golden Glow tan spray.

February 12 2013 at 11:56 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down
obamasacrybaby

That was mine. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

February 12 2013 at 11:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down
obamasacrybaby

Did everyone see how I was crying and whining tonight because those evil Republicans won't let me be dictator

Waaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

February 12 2013 at 11:43 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
obamasacrybaby

teapartyisstupid
You sound just like a republican.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh the Republican won't let me violate the constitution and be dictator

February 12 2013 at 11:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
obamasacrybaby

teapartyisstupid
Food Stamp Use is Highest in Red States: The Truth Republicans Do Not Want You to Know

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh I want more foodstamps.

February 12 2013 at 11:40 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to obamasacrybaby's comment
home

more lies by the left - hey idiot democrates created welfare- subprime lending- cra-hud-and urban developement for the illegals and the bums--- kennedy,lbj,carter,clinton,obama destroyed the working class and want everyone to be poor and on government assistance therfore they have to vote democrat or not get free everything-- stolen by the working republican--- get your facts st8 idiot

February 13 2013 at 1:49 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply