Tonight at 9 p.m. ET, Congress - just back from its Christmas break (yes, really) - will get an update on the state of our union. There is really only one answer to this question, the same way there’s only one answer when your great-aunt asks how you’re doing. It does not matter if you’ve just been dumped; if your dog has a bizarre and untreatable personality disorder; if your car still uses a tape deck, and the cassette permanently lodged in that tape deck is late-career Rick Astley. The answer to that question is always, always “fine.” And every year, no matter what, the President of the United States reports to Congress that the state of our union is “strong.”
The speech is, at heart, just a guide to what policies the White House wants to project as its priorities. Will President Obama see any of the proposals he’ll share tonight actually become law? If you’ve been watching any CNN at all, you know the answer to that question too: Probably not. And if they do, it won’t be be this Congress that passes them. Lawmakers have been publicly speculating that partisan gridlock may make this year’s session even more unproductive than last year’s, which was already the least productive of the post-World War II era. In other words: the most spectacular achievement we can probably expect out of Capitol Hill this year is a blazingly unprecedented new standard in unachievement.
So why do we care? Is it still worth tuning in tonight? Yes, it is.
For one thing: if you’re interested in this year’s White House race, it’s safe to consider this President Obama’s first big campaign address of 2012. What we’re likely to hear from him in the coming days, as he plugs his new agenda at stops in battlegrounds like Nevada and Colorado, will be previewed here tonight. We'll hear a more critical look at the same laundry list on the trail and on the debate stage this Thursday from the Republicans who'd like to replace him. And if he does win reelection, what we hear tonight is likely to provide the outlines of the agenda to expect from a second term.
Here at 360, our State of the Union coverage starts at 8 p.m. ET and runs through midnight ET. As a preview, here are some of the advance excerpts released by the White House this evening:
“Think about the America within our reach: A country that leads the world in educating its people. An America that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs. A future where we’re in control of our own energy, and our security and prosperity aren’t so tied to unstable parts of the world. An economy built to last, where hard work pays off, and responsibility is rewarded. “
“….The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by. Or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules. What’s at stake are not Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. We have to reclaim them.”
“As long as I’m President, I will work with anyone in this chamber to build on this momentum. But I intend to fight obstruction with action, and I will oppose any effort to return to the very same policies that brought on this economic crisis in the first place.
No, we will not go back to an economy weakened by outsourcing, bad debt, and phony financial profits. Tonight, I want to speak about how we move forward, and lay out a blueprint for an economy that’s built to last – an economy built on American manufacturing, American energy, skills for American workers, and a renewal of American values.”
“Let’s never forget: Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and a financial system that do the same. It’s time to apply the same rules from top to bottom: No bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts. An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody.”
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
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