[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/POLITICS/01/27/obama.sotu/story.obamafriday.gi.jpg caption="President Obama has faced tough criticism for his handling of the economy." width=300 height=169]
Hours away from what is arguably the most important address of his short presidency, President Obama will huddle with his top speechwriters to go over the latest revisions to his State of the Union address, according to White House spokesman Robert Gibbs.
Later Wednesday, Gibbs said, the president will get behind a podium to practice for his 9 p.m. address to the nation.
Aides say the speech will focus on job creation, helping the middle class, fighting the deficit and health care reform. But Gibbs said the president will also take responsibility for the political climate that has left a lot of Americans angry and frustrated, and he will express disappointment at how difficult it is to change the way Washington works.
Obama's first State of the Union address comes against a backdrop of an American people nervous about the pace of economic recovery.
Reporter's Note: President Obama is set to deliver his State of the Union address tonight. I am delivering mine today, in my daily letter to the White House.
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Tom Foreman | BIO
Dear Mr. President,
As you put the final touches on your big speech, in my humble opinion, I want you to know that I think the State of the Union is schizophrenic. I don’t mean that in a negative way, but in a “we’ve got a really great country here, full of optimistic souls who want things to get better, but who have very little faith in our leaders, and therefore, limited hope that those golden rays of sunshine we keep hoping for will come pouring down from the clouds any time soon” way.
The jobless rate bites. The tendency of political leaders to say one thing, do another, and then plead for understanding…or worse, to say, “Hey, that’s just politics” is appalling. The utter inability of not merely both parties, but even one party (ahem, yours.) to pull together to get things done is as puzzling as the plot of Mission Impossible 3.
I could go on and on, but I won’t. Because another part of the State of the Union is that we are all getting tired. We’re tired of broken promises, and failed ideas, and leaders who don’t act like leaders at all, but instead like people who are trying to follow from the front.
The tradition of the State of the Union address dates to 1790, when George Washington delivered his "Annual Message," as required by the Constitution. Article II, Section III, states that the President shall "from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.
Take a look at some notable moments in the history of the SOTU address.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/OPINION/01/27/mcconnell.obama.spending/tzleft.mitch.mcconnell.gi.jpg caption="Sen. Mitch McConnell urges the president to change course." width=300 height=169]
Special to CNN
When the president took office last January, he vowed to tackle the economic crisis head on. Yet over the past year, Americans have seen their economic situation deteriorate even further.
For the nearly 3.5 million Americans who lost their jobs, the nearly 3 million people who lost their homes, and many millions more, 2009 was another very painful year. This is why most Americans hope the White House will change direction in 2010 - and that's exactly what most of them will be listening for signs of in the president's first State of the Union address Wednesday night.
Many Americans were surprised by the way the administration approached its first year in office. Americans wanted the administration and Democrat leaders in Congress to implement policies to create jobs, spur the expansion of small businesses, and help middle class families make ends meet.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/WORLD/americas/01/22/haiti.aftershocks/t1larg.haiti.line.afp.gi.jpg caption="Haitians wait in line at an aid distribution station in Port-au-Prince." width=300 height=169 width=300 height=169]
Peniel E. Joseph
Special to CNN
Haiti's poverty has been much discussed since its massive earthquake, but little has been said of its rich, and equally fraught, history.
For African-Americans, Haiti's tragedy hits close to home. For more than two centuries the tiny, at times fragile, republic has inspired black political activism in the United States.
Born of the influence of the French and American revolutions, Haiti, once prized as the jewel of the French Empire, changed the course of its history by engineering a revolution that startled the world.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/POLITICS/01/27/obama.education/story.obama.speaks.cnn.jpg caption="President Obama is expected to ask for an increase in federal education spending during Wednesday's State of the Union." width=300 height=169]
Ed Henry | BIO
CNN Senior White House Correspondent
Despite a heavy focus on fiscal discipline in his first State of the Union address, President Obama will announce an increase of up to $4 billion in federal education spending, according to senior administration officials familiar with the speech.
A big chunk of that boost will be an increase of $1.35 billion for Obama's signature "Race to the Top" grant program, aimed at sparking innovation in schools across the country, the officials said.
An additional $1 billion will be targeted at overhauling the No Child Left Behind Act, former President George W. Bush's signature program, which has come under criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle.
The budget plan will "improve outcomes for students at every point along the educational pipeline," and will include attempts to squeeze out some savings, one of the senior administration officials said.
http://i.l.cnn.net/cnn/2007/BUSINESS/10/11/gulf.inflation/art.dollar.bill.gi.jpg caption="Nell Minow says Wall Street banks are earning big profits due to government bailouts."]
Special to CNN
If insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result, the post-crisis pay plans in the finance industry qualify for commitment. The Wall Street financial firms claim to have made some changes, but all the ones we have seen so far are cosmetic, required by statute, weakened by loopholes, or circumvented.
First, the boards of Wall Street financial institutions implemented pay plans that were a major and direct cause of the financial meltdown. These purported bastions of capitalism protected themselves from risk by limiting their downside exposure while taking their pay off the top. Second, rinse and repeat - they took bailout money and kept paying themselves as though they earned it.
I believe in the market. But executives and their boards of directors have hijacked the market to externalize costs and it is doing critical damage to capitalism. The key is always persuading providers of capital that managers will use the funds to create shareholder value and not to enrich themselves. This compensation mess calls that into question.
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/12/13/senate.spending.bill/story.capitol.dome.gi.jpg caption="Gloria Borger says Obama must address deficit, because people are worried about it." width=300 height=169]
Gloria Borger | BIO
CNN Senior Political Analyst
Here's something to keep in mind about American voters: They're not fond of political gimmicks.
Sure, they understand that a certain amount of contrivance - aka pandering - is a part of politics. They weren't born yesterday, and have been through a few elections. But the voters have their limits.
So when Democrats in the Massachusetts state legislature try to perform legislative jujitsu to save a Democratic vote for health care - as in the case with Ted Kennedy's seat - they were skeptical. As it turns out, even dependable Massachusetts voters didn't like being taken for granted.