Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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January 19, 2010

SOTU SET FOR JAN. 27.... There's been a fair amount of chatter in recent weeks about when, exactly, President Obama will deliver the State of the Union address. Will he push it off until February? Wait until health care reform is finished? Interrupt the season premier of "Lost"?

We got our answer late yesterday.

President Obama will deliver his first State of the Union address on Jan. 27. The White House announced Monday afternoon that the president would speak to a joint session of Congress next Wednesday at 9 p.m.

In the televised speech to the nation, Mr. Obama will outline his priorities for the coming year as well as recount what he believes are the achievements from his first year in office. Speech writers have been working on the address for weeks, but the date had not been set, pending the outcome of the health insurance legislation in Congress.

In general, weeks of White House planning go into the SOTU event, so it's hard to say with any certainty what political factors, if any, played a role in picking this date.

But for those of us inclined to speculate, the decision doesn't seem all that mysterious. The West Wing has been counting on the SOTU to shift the trajectory a bit, giving Obama a chance to make his case, tout his successes, launch some new arguments, and alter the course of the national conversation. With the White House expecting to see the Democrats' 60-vote Senate majority end this week, scheduling the prime-time speech for next week -- as compared to early February -- also gives the president and his team a chance to change the subject and put the Massachusetts Mess behind them.

What's more, if there's a genuine panic among Democratic lawmakers in the wake of the special election in Massachusetts, and hysterical members wake up tomorrow and start typing their retirement announcements, the timing of the SOTU at least gives the leadership something to offer: "The speech is just a week away. Before there's an exodus, let's wait and see what the president has to say."

And then there's health care. Assuming the Senate Dem caucus goes from 60 to 59 seats, as is likely, there will be renewed pressure on the House to wrap up the process, pass the Senate bill as-is, and get reform signed into law quickly. If Democratic leaders prioritize completion by the SOTU, this would give the House a week, which, if 218 House members were so inclined, would be more than enough time.

Steve Benen 8:35 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (9)

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Comments

What a dismal description of the Democratic Party's status at the beginning of Obama Year Two -- merely by contextualizing the timing of SOTU...

Nailed it, Steve!

Kudos!

Posted by: neill on January 19, 2010 at 8:41 AM | PERMALINK

"... get reform signed into law quickly. If Democratic leaders prioritize completion by the SOTU, this would give the House a week, which, if 218 House members were so inclined, would be more than enough time."

Ha, that's funny! It's just like The Onion.

Posted by: g. powell on January 19, 2010 at 8:43 AM | PERMALINK

I'll be watching the Australian Open. I've heard enough from President Sham-wow.(H/T Woody)

Posted by: par4 on January 19, 2010 at 8:51 AM | PERMALINK

I'd like to hear a new, chastened, "muscular" Obama in the SOTU. He's been ill served by his economic team (the stimulus was too small, yet he still dithers in doing anything more), he's been let down by his fellow Democrats (in particular in the Senate), and he has been weak to the point of wimpiness with respect to his desire for bipartisanship and wanting everybody to get along. I now wonder not only if Democrats will get hammered in the mid-terms but if Obama could lose the next presidential election.

Posted by: sjw on January 19, 2010 at 9:12 AM | PERMALINK

swj, count on him being a one-termer unless he steps up and says "I was wrong, and there will be big changes." Also, he should announce the immediate departure of Rahm Emanuel.

Posted by: bob5540 on January 19, 2010 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

Biden's recent comments on the filibuster are very encouraging - since he's one of the few people in a position to actually do something about it. Perhaps the Democratic leadership has finally figured out that the filibuster makes a Democratic agenda virtually unattainable, and that either the filibuster needs to go or the Democratic majority will.

Posted by: Josh G. on January 19, 2010 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

What needs to happen in the Ma election and in future elections, is the stopping of journalistic malpractice habits such as "calling" elections. Invisible parties giving unsubstantiated information to the media. It's like a race announcer calling the horse race before the photo finish. Steve, it is up to you and your colleagues to call this out. We saw this in 2000, in the NY 23 race, in Maine and others. It is journo malpractice without any consequences.

Posted by: johnnymags on January 19, 2010 at 9:34 AM | PERMALINK

"What's more, if there's a genuine panic among Democratic lawmakers in the wake of the special election in Massachusetts, and hysterical members wake up tomorrow and start typing their retirement announcements, the timing of the SOTU at least gives the leadership something to offer: 'The speech is just a week away. Before there's an exodus, let's wait and see what the president has to say.'"

If that's the case then I say good riddance. If one election leads you to throw in the towel, then do it now and get out of the fucking way so someone with real integrity can take your place.

This party needs a lot of new, progressive blood.
I'm REALLY disappointed at the old guard right now (I'm looking at you, Chris Dodd). We could use a little revolution of our own.

Posted by: bdop4 on January 19, 2010 at 9:40 AM | PERMALINK

there will be renewed pressure on the House to wrap up the process, pass the Senate bill as-is, and get reform signed into law quickly.

I am really tired of hearing statements like this. The House is its own body and makes legislation independent of the Senate. The House does not exist solely to rubberstamp the Senate's doings. The House developed a bill quite different (and better) than the Senate's. It did so after a lot of hard work. So why on earth should it just toss all that out for the convenience of the President and to placate the egotistical jerks (Nelson, Lieberman) in the Senate? Yes, I know all about the losing the 60th vote, but that's not a good enough reason.

Posted by: Missouri Mule on January 19, 2010 at 10:05 AM | PERMALINK
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