- The Washington Times - Monday, January 23, 2012

SO-SO SOTU

It’s State of the Union time and a tough audience awaits: President Obama “faces the daunting task of making his message credible and relevant against the backdrop of political and economic turmoil that has characterized much of the past few years,” observes Gallup analyst Lydia Saad, upon reviewing numbers that reveal an edgy nation.

Among them: 83 percent of Americans are dissatisfied with the nation’s economy, 69 percent with the size and power of the federal government, 68 percent with the moral and ethical climate of the nation. Wait, there’s more. Two-thirds are annoyed with the level of immigration into the country, 65 percent are dissatisfied with the affordability of health care, 61 percent with federal taxes.

But hey, we do like some things. More than three-fourths of us still say they’re satisfied with the “quality of life,” 72 percent are happy with the nation’s security from terrorism, 71 percent with our military preparedness, 56 percent with the influence of organized religion, 53 percent with the opportunities afforded by hard work and 50 percent with the nation’s gun laws.

SO, SO SOTU

The culture of the State of the Union speech expands. When President Obama fires up the old teleprompter and steps up for his annual rite on Tuesday night, some citizens are poised to down a tequila shot, guzzle beer or wager their quarters over how many standing ovations Mr. Obama gets during the course of the evening, or what Vice President Joseph R. Biden might be doing in the background as the minutes drag on.

The chances are pretty good that Mr. Obama will wear a red tie, speak about 45 minutes and say “As I stand here today” early on, at least according to the America-obsessed oddsmakers at Paddy Power. The online company is offering odds about Mr. Obama’s neckwear, how long he’ll speak and the surge of assorted rhetorical cliches that may surface in the annual rite. The president is not likely to say “let’s get ready to rumble” or “I won’t seek re-election” the oddsmakers says.

And when in doubt, play bingo. Americans for Tax Reform offer free, handy-dandy bingo cards themed on key Obama-centric words like “obstructionist,” “infrastructure” and “compromise,” among many others. Find five versions at www.atr.org — ideal for competition among friends and family, a spokesman advises.

A BIG GOAL

A White House visit by a title-winning sports team is usually just a nice photo op, a reward for a championship season. But wait. Boston Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas skipped the team’s visit with President Obama on Monday reports Ted Starkey, author of “Transition Game,” a book about the Washington Capitals, and an online editor for The Washington Times. He was there with the team.

“Thomas — one of two Americans on the Bruins’ roster and the Conn Smythe Trophy winner for the most valuable player of last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs — was noticeably absent as Mr. Obama welcomed the team,” Ted tells Inside the Beltway.

“I believe the federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People,” Mr. Thomas announced on his Facebook page. “This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers’ vision for the federal government. Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a free citizen, and did not visit the White House.”

Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli says he knew of Mr. Thomas’ sentiments for months. The Michigan native will not be punished for his absence.

“Everybody has their own opinions and political beliefs. He chose not to join us,” says Bruins team president Cam Neely.

ROMNEY REBUTTAL

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels may be giving the official Republican response following President Obama’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday night. And Herman Cain is set to publicly speak out with the tea party’s official response.

But presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s going to pre-empt all of them. Along with releasing his 2010 tax forms, Mr. Romney will offer a “prebuttal” to Mr. Obama’s oration at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday in Tampa, Fla. Later, he’ll have a rebuttal. Well. Just sayin’.

LA, LA, LA-DI-DAH

“Crosby & Nash, Yoko Ono, Willie Nelson, Joan Baez, Debbie Harry, Devo, Jackson Browne, Tom Morello, Ladytron, Warren Haynes, Yo La Tengo, Lucinda Williams, the Guthrie Family, Toots and the Maytals, Loudon Wainwright III, Mogwai, Our Lady Peace, filmmaker Michael Moore.”

And so reads a partial roster of contributors to “Occupy This Album,” a music collection to benefit the Occupy Wall Street crowd, set to be released in spring. Curious? Look here: www.musicforoccupy.org. But things are still one big collective, apparently.

“Occupy This Album was produced autonomously and this project is in no way, shape or form endorsed by the Arts or Music Working Groups at Occupy Wall St, nor by the movement as a whole,” reads a disclaimer from the producers.

POLL DU JOUR

• 86 percent of Americans want President Obama and Congress to concentrate on strengthening the nation’s economy; 90 percent of Republicans and 86 percent of Democrats agree.

• 82 percent overall want an improvement in the jobs situation; 77 percent of Republicans and 89 percent of Democrats agree.

• 69 percent overall want a reduction in the budget deficit; 84 percent of Republicans and 66 percent of Democrats agree.

• 65 percent overall want the educational system improved; 51 percent of Republicans and 79 percent of Democrats agree.

• 43 percent overall want more protection for the environment; 27 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of Democrats agree.

• 44 percent overall say a smaller military will reduce effectiveness; 65 percent of Republicans and 31 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Pew Research Center for the People & the Press survey of 1,502 U.S. adults conducted Jan. 11-16.

Speeches, applause, tunes and singalongs to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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