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Posted at 5:15 PM ET, 12/31/2010

Friday question

By Jennifer Rubin

As we look ahead to 2011, the State of the Union address will reveal Obama's agenda for the coming year and provide some indication as to the opportunities for bipartisan compromise. What should Obama say, and what should he avoid saying in order to maximize his opportunities for legislative success? As a bonus, let us know how many Supreme Court justices you think will attend the speech.

All answers should be submitted by 6 p.m. ET.

By Jennifer Rubin  | December 31, 2010; 5:15 PM ET
Categories:  Friday question  
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The problem with making predictions about SOTU is that my expectations keeping getting lower. He will probably hit the key topics of unemployment, recovery, and spending, but he will (1) miss the connections between them, (2) announce intent to create new federal programs to address them, and (3) remind us that he only wants to cut spending with a scalpel, not a machete. He will defend the indefensible on ObamaCare; that won't be an area for compromise or bipartisanship. He will attack and denigrate Republicans at the same time that calls for bipartisanship, because his basic concept of bipartisanship is that everyone supports his positions. He will remind us that he intends to fight for tax-the-rich in 2012, and generally not back away from redistribution. He will find a way to annoy everyone on immigration.

Bonus question: Four SCOTUS justices, the full liberal wing. At a minimum, Sotomayer and Kagan; they owe this to Obama. Probably Breyer and Ginsburg as well.

Unrequested bonus: There won't be a "You lie!" moment this time. Too bad.

Posted by: CylonCat | December 31, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

1. Obama must as far as possible keep away from all Ideas of Reform because a plurality of the nation is enraged already about his talking/dressing down, but not leading!! - merely antagonizing.. His 'successes' in getting START and DADT through Congress will otherwise be his last ones..
2. If tied to his party stricture - preferring to remain above the fray of blame for economic ruin caused by Senators Frank and Dodd!! and before these, also the failure of Bill Clinton! - he should be thankful that impeachment has not started already - many being of the opinion that the nation can't afford to let the Ship of State run aground more failures: dubious green politics, no success in creating a business climate nor shaping up to an educational policy for the coming century!---just to mention a few 'causes'. (Many failures grounded in corruption are mentioned already in Michelle Malkin's book titled simply 'Corruption'..)
3. Two Supreme Judges will/should stay away during the SoU speech: 1. Roberts and 2. Alito due to their disbelief during Obama's dressing down of the Court in 2009(sic!)

Posted by: johanberger519 | December 31, 2010 9:54 AM | Report abuse

What Obama should say: "The 2010 midterms were a message from the American People that our performance on the economy has been unsatisfactory. We need to set ideology aside and find the best, most cost-effective ways to get businesses hiring again. I want to hear the best ideas from both parties and the best ideas from businesses large and small to get the economy moving in the right direction. Increasing employment is my number 1 priority."

What Obama should avoid saying: "We have achieved a lot over the last few months with little help from the opposition party. Repealing DADT, ratifying a new arms agreement, and extending middle class tax cuts were important achievements. I did not want to shower more federal money on those that have gained so much over the last 10 years, but that was the price I had to pay to get the nation's business done. Looking forward, we still have challenges - business are not hiring in spite of record cash balances. Banks are still not lending to small business in spite of record profits and bonuses. We need to work together in a bipartisan way, setting aside all those tired ideological arguments, to get the economy working for all, not just those at the top."

Supreme Court justices - I guess the 4 liberals.

Posted by: sold2u | December 31, 2010 11:30 AM | Report abuse

First, this is a good question. Another part of it is what should he say vs. what will he say. In that spirit, here goes:

Obama should talk about an American economy that is getting better but there are still too many people who are unemployed and want a good job. He will talk about an improving economy and the need to continue bringing our economy into the 21st Century (code phrase for more green jobs, more opportunities for people not born in this country).

He should also talk about progress being made on the War on Terror, though he won't use that phrase. He'll talk about his continued progress in bringing America into harmony with the rest of the world.

He should talk about making government more efficient. He will talk about making gov't more efficient and will cite 1 or 2 trivial examples, such as cutting some obscure agency's budget by one-half of one percent.

Final theme will be a bit about bipartisanship: How there should be more of it. He will talk about how he invites Republicans to join him in making this a better country.

All 9 justices will attend.

Happy New Year to you and all your readers.

Posted by: DrBerkeley | December 31, 2010 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Hey Johan,

Barney Frank is NOT a senator.

Back to civics class for you.

Posted by: Amminadab | December 31, 2010 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Obama should ask Aaron Sorkin and Peggy Noonan to co-write his next SOTU, and then actually do whatever they write.

The entire SCOTUS should attend. Scalia and Ginsburg can perform a puppet show that mimes their responses as if they are performing opera.

I am writing as a registered Dem who is foremost a fiscal conservative in despair.

My fantasy 2011 SOTU has Obama announcing his resignation so that he can personally bring peace to Africa since that looks more promising than figuring out why America's economic recovery refuses to generate enough private sector jobs whilst PACCA (Obamacare) remains on the books and the bond market is in full revolt over the deficits. His peace plan will consist of calling for all African Christians to utterly and completely defeat every Islamist Imperialist, banning Shari'a from the entire continent with whatevere means necessary.

By late January, America will be past the need for a show of bipartisanship. The highly polarized House will be paralyzed by their respective ideologies unless Boehner actually figures out how to craft focussed legislation that offers a responsible budget that somehow makes the next vote on the debt ceiling palatable.

Yup, happy 2011 to you, too.

Posted by: K2K2 | December 31, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

Obama is not looking for legislative "success" in the next 2 years, he will focus on his real goal of imposing a regulatory regime that will do further long-term damage to the U.S. economy and society.

In short, the SOTU will be another group Obama lies where he requests Republicans to help him restore the economy and jobs. But his methods will be larger government, large deficits, and a drive toward a centralized government imposing its will on the American people.

The Republicans must resist, but I doubt their collective will to do so.

Posted by: pilsener | December 31, 2010 5:43 PM | Report abuse

I want to hear Obama discuss at length how he is going to bring the budget deficit to zero by cutting spending and without raising taxes.

Since the chances that he will discuss such AND be believable are zero, I think I will skip the whole charade and not watch the vain political posturing.

If the entire Supreme Court feels the same, that would be bully.

Posted by: nvjma | December 31, 2010 6:44 PM | Report abuse

President.O! will say that his marxist beliefs compels him to ask congress to reduce the size of the federal gov't by 55% to beat Harding /Coolidge in gov't downsizing. The 2 Supremes in attendance jump to their feet and high five each other. At the same time the Democratic side starts lobbing spit balls at the Republican side where a camera captures the Speaker of the House crying.

Posted by: engdre | December 31, 2010 7:07 PM | Report abuse

Is this what we have to look forward to politically? There is absolutely nothing that Obama will say that will truly reveal the direction he intends to take this country. He got everything he's going to get in the next two years, legislatively, in the lame duck session. And how appropriate that Obama, who will effectively become a lame duck unless he triangulates, found his best success in that session. Obama is an ideologue and he is wedded to his liberal ideology and is bent on fulfilling the original promises of his campaign circa 2008. He will do so through the executive branch by regulation. The real question is how do the GOP respond?

Otherwise a sensible and pragmatic agenda list to put forward would be to galvanize the economy by reducing corporate tax rates. Make dividends tax deductible for corporations and lower the corporate tax to 25% . Allow for more resource development in America, not only in energy, but the Central Valley in CA is shut down due to regulations in the Endangered Species Act. These regulations must be rescinded. Also he can continue to expand the free trade agenda, by pursuing more regional free trade agreements like with the ASEAN nations and more bilateral free trade agreements, like with Colombia and Peru. Another area he should focus on is a more sensible policy to address the continued depression in the housing market. Why not reduce but broaden out the homebuyer's tax credit for all buyers of homes until a certain price level is restore in the housing market? To this, why not make it more expressly known to those who are underwater that they can short sale even while making on time payments and be eligible for FHA backed loans after two years of good credit? It would immediately clear out the overhang of homes that has become a glut on the market and stop the nonsense modification schemes that are leaving people frozen credit wise. Finally domestically, take the deficit commission's framework as a starting point for implementing entitlement and tax reform to close the long-term U.S. deficit and to reduce the national debt.

On foreign policy, Obama must put Iran on notice that the U.S. under his leadership will not permit a nuclear weapon and that all options are on the table to stop Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons.

I think all the Supreme Court Justices will appear with the exception of Samuel Alito.

Posted by: stevendufresne | December 31, 2010 8:27 PM | Report abuse

The SOTU has already been undermined by the new round of recess of appointments. Nevertheless, Obama will probably give rhetorical support for budget cuts, but will keep it vague to draw flak later to Republican-specific reductions. He will exaggerate any sliver of silver lining in the economy (stock market, slight improvement in GDP growth, and saved/created jobs mythology). He may throw a sop at Tea Party types with some boilerplate about no more bailouts and a swipe at Wall Street. He could tout the bi-partisan support for the war on terror, but he'll probably be too squeamish to do so, given fellow Democrats' objections to the war effort.

His "hostage taker" moment would be a riff on immigration reform. That could undermine, if not destroy the bi-partisan template. Self-congratulations regarding Obamacare will put the ol' kibosh on the festivities leading both Democrats and Republicans at each others throats, where we started.

Bonus: four SCOTUS Justices attend: Kagan, Sotomayor, Ginsburg and Breyer.

Posted by: TheStatistQuo | December 31, 2010 10:41 PM | Report abuse

Barak Obama should admit to the American people that he is a commited socialist and resign so that someone who understands capitalism and the American economy can replace him.

Posted by: philrat | January 1, 2011 12:29 AM | Report abuse

In a traditional refinance, insist on a good-faith estimate of the costs up front, before you give the lender a penny, search the web for "123 Mortgage Refinance" I would strongly recommend them. They got me 2.891% rate!

Posted by: judyalt123 | January 1, 2011 3:48 AM | Report abuse

0bama should stay in Hawaii and have Mister Peanut read his SOTU. The Supremes should come in costume: The Wise Latina could come as a conga dancer and the shrively one could come in a tutu. Alito could dress as Ben Franklin and wag his finger at Mister Peanut as he reads his boring speech. Breyer in clown suit could smile a lot.

Posted by: ZoltanNewberry | January 1, 2011 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Barack Obama will make a pompous and long winded speech in which he will tell us how wonderful he is and how much he has done for the United States. He will intersperse this with tales from his childhood and his grandmother, as well as his higher education. And he then launch into a sensitive and yet universal explanation as to how these people and experiences have molded his truly humble yet outstanding character. He will review his numerous accomplishments and then tell his listeners that he still has much he wishes to accomplish. Of course by now he has been speaking for about two hours and anyone who is not a news pundit being paid to listen, or a Democrat politician, has long since given up listening to this litany of Presidential egotism and is watching the football game or cooking show they taped earlier.

Posted by: Beniyyar | January 1, 2011 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Obama will begin by declaring the state of the union to be stronger than last year and than the condition in which he found it. He will list his legislative achievements and insist that they are making the union and country stronger though there is still much to accomplish. He will emphasize the need to stimulate economic growth in order to reduce unemployment but not at the expense of environmental concerns or the material well-being of what he calls, the middle class. [I doubt that he will avoid any topics because of the new party alignments in Congress] On foreign relations, he will also assess his record as positive and as forging better alliances with world powers than in the past. In other words, this is a president who is not going to triangulate willingly or reach across the aisle unless he is pushed by forces beyond his control.

Posted by: drdivine1 | January 2, 2011 8:28 AM | Report abuse

I decided to respond to this question by going back to the 2007 State of the Union address. Then-President Bush’s approval ratings were low and the Democrats had functional control of both houses of Congress. So what did he say to encourage bi-partisan partnership?

After his brief opening remarks, almost nothing.

Instead, he launched into his agenda. First, the economy: reduce the deficit, cut back on earmarks, and a general desire to “fix Medicare and Medicaid and save Social Security.” After that came a call for better education by building on the No Child Left Behind Act, and some ideas for making health insurance more affordable. Then immigration reform, energy/environment, and a plea to the Senate to confirm more of his judicial appointments. Then the war on terror, foreign affairs, and a salute to a few outstanding Americans in attendance.

Yes, buried in the lengthy war-on-terror section of the speech he did call for a bipartisan advisory council.

Otherwise, zip, zilch, nada.


The SOTU Address is basically political theater. In it, the President gets to play the strong leader and outline his dream. All the players get that. Political junkies will spend hours searching for messages in the President’s words, words that the rest of us will have forgotten in less than a week. That’s part of the theatrical quality of the ritual and is the source of Ms. Rubin’s asking the question in the first place.

But in the end the President stands alone at the podium as the nation’s leader. Yes, eventually there will have to be enough compromise to enact legislation, but not that night. That night, partisan though it may be, there is only one spotlight. All the players get that, too.

As to the number of SCOTUS justices attending, I'll go with 8 if Justice Roberts attends, 4 if he doesn't.

Posted by: MsJS | January 2, 2011 1:02 PM | Report abuse

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