“President Barack Obama will call for new government spending on infrastructure, education and research in his State of the Union address Tuesday, sharpening his response to Republicans in Congress who are demanding deep budget cuts, people familiar with the speech said.
“Mr. Obama will argue that the U.S., even while trying to reduce its budget deficit, must make targeted investments to foster job growth and boost U.S. competitiveness in the world economy. The new spending could include initiatives aimed at building the renewable-energy sector—which received billions of dollars in stimulus funding—and rebuilding roads to improve transportation, people familiar with the matter said. Money to restructure the No Child Left Behind law’s testing mandates and institute more competitive grants also could be included.
“While proposing new spending, Mr. Obama also will lay out significant budget cuts elsewhere, people familiar with the plans say, though they will likely fall short of what Republican lawmakers have requested.”
“When President Barack Obama steps into the House chamber Tuesday to deliver his second State of the Union address, ambience will trump substance.
“In his speech, the president will talk about jobs, the deficit and the future of the nation’s troubled economy, but most of the attention is going to be on the theatrics in the room. It will be a night defined by the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) and murder of six bystanders in Tucson less than a month ago and the highly public soul-searching that has played out since then on the need for greater civility in political debate…
“As aides have been circulating drafts of Tuesday’s address, the word buzzing around the White House has been ‘confidence’ — a reassertion that America will remain a dominant economic and international player despite the rise of China and the rate of unemployment’s hovering just below 10 percent.”
“Some liberal lawmakers are also trying to read between the lines in Obama’s speech, looking for places where his rhetoric might not match his intent. For example, if the president uses terms like ‘investments,’ that’s an indication that Obama still believes in more government stimulus…
“A labor official, who asked not to be identified in order to speak more candidly about the president’s political situation, noted that ‘the midterm elections freed’ Obama to work independently and without regard to his party’s left.
“‘The left understands that the choice in 2012 will be Obama or somebody far worse,’ the official said. ‘They will have no choice, no matter what Obama says in the State of the Union address. No matter how much we complain, he knows that at the end of the day, we will be supporting him in 2012 — and that affects what he can do now. The choice for us will be an administration that disappointed us or a Republican administration that will be out to destroy us.'”
“On ABC’s ‘This Week with Christiane Amanpour’ Sunday, Washington Post columnist George Will was soundly dismissive of the event, likening it to a ‘pep rally.’
“‘A, they’re overrated — the next morning, the country is still a complex continental country with muscular interests in politics as its own momentum,’ Will said. ‘Between Jefferson and Woodrow Wilson, no one delivered this in person. They sent the report to Congress in writing. But, now we’ve turned this into this panorama. In which an interminable speech, every president, regardless of party — tries to stroke every erogenous zone in the electorate and it becomes a political pep rally, to use the phrase of Chief Justice [John] Roberts last year. If it’s going to be a pep rally with the president’s supporters of whatever party standing up and bringing approval and histrionic pouting on the part of the other, then it’s no place for the judiciary, no place for the uniformed military, and no place for non-adolescent legislators.'”