The “bipartisan seating chart” may make for a more subdued State of the Union speech this year, but there may not be much in the way of partisan talking points to cheer or catcall, anyway.
Via The New York Times:
Mr. Obama previewed the themes in a video e-mailed Saturday evening to supporters who had helped in his election campaign. But the video made plain that his speech would be geared more broadly toward the political center, to independent voters and business owners and executives alienated by the expansion of government and the partisan legislative fights of the past two years.
“My No. 1 focus,” he said, “is going to be making sure that we are competitive, and we are creating jobs not just now but well into the future.”
“These are big challenges that are in front of us,” Mr. Obama also said in the video, sent to members of Organizing for America, his network of supporters from the 2008 campaign. “But we’re up to it, as long as we come together as a people — Republicans, Democrats, independents — as long as we focus on what binds us together as a people, as long as we’re willing to find common ground even as we’re having some very vigorous debates.”
The annual address on Tuesday, with much of the nation watching, will pull together themes suggested by Mr. Obama over the past two months as he has moved rapidly since the midterm elections to retool his presidency.
In his speeches, policy choices and personnel appointments, Mr. Obama has signaled that after two years in which his response to the economic crisis and his push for passage of the health care bill defined him to many voters as a big-government liberal, he is seeking to recast himself as a more business-friendly, pragmatic progressive.
That means emphasizing job creation, deficit reduction and a willingness to compromise in a new period of divided government. But it also means a willingness to make the case for spending — or investment, as many in his party would prefer to call it — in areas like education, transportation and technological innovation when it can be justified as essential to the nation’s long-term prosperity.
The Times also reports that the speech will be “more thematic than heavy on specific policy initiatives,” making it, frankly, sort of a waste of time.
The audience may not be the only ones who think it’s a waste, either. Rumors are swirling that there is a possibility that not one Republican Supreme Court Justice will actually attend the event.
Justice Antonin Scalia hasn’t attended a State of the Union address in years. Clarence Thomas seems to come and go, although he recently explained, “I don’t go because it has become so partisan, and it’s very uncomfortable for a judge to sit there. … There’s a lot that you don’t hear on TV—the catcalls, the whooping and hollering and under-the-breath comments.” So if Thomas and Scalia are ditching and Alito bows out for 2011, it will leave the chief justice in an unenviable position. As my colleague Greg Stohr points out, if all four conservative justices stay home this year, “The court’s contingent at the speech might consist largely—perhaps even entirely—of Democratic appointees.”
The State of the Union occurs tomorrow evening, so be sure to check back here at Care2 for the latest coverage.