The State of Obama's State of the Union

Obama's speech could be a powerful weapon in his arsenal or a tally mark against the struggling White House

By Caitlin Millat
|  Wednesday, Jan 27, 2010  |  Updated 6:00 AM CDT
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President Obama is set for his first State of the Union speech.

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President Obama will deliver his first State of the Union address tonight, a speech that comes as public opinion of the president continues to lag and promised legislation -- health care and otherwise -- remains stalled in a divided Congress.

As the commander in chief prepares to address a restless public, experts say the State of the Union could become either a powerful weapon in Obama's arsenal or yet another tally mark against the struggling White House.

Here's how they say Obama should play his State of the Union hand:

  • Obama should take his cue from Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant when he addresses the nation, Joe Mathews writes at Politico. The president should forget about playing up his personality and instead focus on "scoring," hammering home his agenda like Bryant would pump points into the Lakers' bucket: "You must shoot. And you must keep shooting, even when your shots miss," Mathews writes.
  • Leo Hindery Jr. blogs for the Huffington Post that Obama can only score if he talks about one thing: "JOBS, JOBS, JOBS." The president needs to face the "real unemployment and economic problems confronting the nation."
  • No matter what Obama lays out in his State of the Union address, whether it's about jobs, terrorism or health care, Obama's message must be well-defined and tangible, the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson writes. "It doesn't matter whether Obama speaks in a loud voice. What matters is that he speaks in a clear voice, a definitive voice," Robinson writes.
  • Bret Stephens at the Wall Street Journal agrees, saying that Obama can't rely on his notoriously charismatic personality to muddle through the speech. The confident president is floating in an "evanescent bubble of self" that he's got to transcend when laying out a clear, strong State of the Union speech, Stephens writes. Otherwise, "God help [Obama] when it bursts."
  • Whether Obama fails or succeeds in his first State of the Union is moot, David Paul Kuhn writes for RealClearPolitics.com. Americans can't be swayed by a single speech in an age when we're constantly bombarded with media, information and communication from and about the White House, Kuhn writes: "We have grown numb to the televised presidency."

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