- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2014

Let’s hope the nation witnesses talk of substance rather than skimpy political theater when President Obama steps before the nation for his fifth State of the Union address on Tuesday night. Yes, let’s hope so, considering that only about a fourth of Americans definitely plan to tune in, says at least one major poll.

“Why watch another rerun?” demands the Republican National Committee, convinced that the speech will be fraught with distractions, and the proverbial same old, same old.

Based on his track record, Mr. Obama will likely speak for just over an hour, though protocols, applause and social moments could draw his oration out to, oh, 90 minutes. For better or worse, this serious speech has been prepackaged by the White House as an entertainment event, complete with PR videos, promises of “exclusive content” and trite social media trimmings. Will such efforts attract a wider audience, or annoy and alienate an already worried American public? Only the overnight ratings will tell when they begin arriving on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, some in the audience will be listening a little closer than others.

“I’ll be watching to see how hard President Obama pushes for so-called ‘fast-track’ authority to negotiate new international trade agreements. Republicans support new trade treaties and are interested in working with him on them. But the president’s union supporters oppose them, arguing in part that they’ll contribute to income inequality — which the president says he wants to tackle as well,” Fox Business Network correspondent Peter Barnes tells Inside the Beltway.

“A strong endorsement of ‘fast track’ authority by the president could lead to a major bipartisan deal this year, perhaps the only one of 2014,” he adds.

“The president is likely to talk about ending wars and his signature deal with Iran in this year’s SOTU. But the reality is that the Iran deal is doing more to ensure Iran’s nuclear status than stop it,” says Danielle Pletka, vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

“And far from ending, wars are continuing and beginning anew from Syria to Iraq to Afghanistan. Not to speak of the al Qaeda renaissance, China’s new bellicosity and Russia’s return to authoritarianism,” she adds.


Yes, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington offers the official GOP rebuttal to the aforementioned speech, to be broadcast on virtually every network. But what about Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican — who’s offering the tea party response? See what he has to say, live-streamed at 10 p.m. on Tuesday here: Teapartyexpress.org. Then there’s Sen. Rand Paul. The Kentucky Republican also will air a few thoughts, to be available on YouTube immediately following President Obama’s address.


Presidential rites of passage like big speeches and inaugural fare are a joyous time for cable news networks — a lavish feast compared to the box lunch offered by broadcasters like ABC, NBC and CBS. While those networks must limit their coverage, lest they lose primetime advertising revenue, competitive cable news hums with purpose, high art, and much packaging.

When President Obama’s State of the Union address begins Tuesday at 9 p.m. ET, it will be proceeded by coverage that begins as early as 6 a.m., as is the case with CNN. Then comes the steady drumbeat up to the moment of truth, or untruth as the case may be. The big event is surrounded by pre- and post-speech shows, and bolstered with special analysis, local tie-ins, interactive gizmos, whirling graphics, social media, plus heavy radio and online coverage.

A very abbreviated roundup, then, from a few networks in question:

Along with anchors Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper and John King on the “magic wall,” CNN’s team includes former George W. Bush adviser Karen Hughes, Newt Gingrich, Obama biographer David Maraniss and former Obama speechwriter Jon Favreau, and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. Jake Tapper will host “State of the Union: Postgame.” The network also offers reports from Des Moines, Iowa — and Tehran.

Meanwhile, Neil Cavuto and John Stossel hold down the fort at the Fox Business Network beginning at 8 p.m. At Fox News, Bret Baier anchors primetime coverage with input from contributors Charles Krauthammer, Kirsten Powers, George Will, and A.B. Stoddard. Live coverage from the White House and Congress falls to Ed Henry and Mike Emanuel; Bill O’Reilly and Megyn Kelly provide special programming until midnight. FOX Broadcasting, incidentally, features Shepard Smith and Sunday host Chris Wallace with analysis of the address and the Republican response.

Also on speech duty: MSNBC hosts Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews, Al Jazeera America anchors John Seigenthaler, Joie Chen, Ray Suarez and Libby Casey live from the Newseum in the nation’s capital; The BlazeTV’s Laurie Dhue and the “Real News” team.

Thirty-three million people across all broadcast outlets tuned in for the address last year; in total viewership, Fox News won the night with an average of 3.8 million, followed by CNN with 3.4 million and MSNBC’s 2.4 million.


“The last time I actually drove a car myself was 1996. And I remember it very well, and so does the Secret Service, which is why I haven’t driven since then.”

Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a speech to the National Automobile Dealers Association meeting in New Orleans on Monday.


“America is blessed with a creative spirit that has conquered diseases, ended epidemics and given millions of people the opportunity to live longer, healthier lives. We can once again have the greatest health care system on earth, if Washington gets out of the way.”

And so says Ben Carson, who has placed his commonsense wisdom behind Save Our Health Care, a new project of American Legacy PAC, an independent political action committee founded in 2010 by GOP consultant Mike Murray, centered on individual freedom, responsibility and “unapologetic opportunity.”

The organization has already lent support to Republican Sens. Mike Lee, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz and Tim Scott.

Dr. Carson is now chairman of the health care outreach; he’s now seen in nationwide broadcast ads that began Monday.

“It’s clear that Obamacare isn’t working for all Americans. It’s time to begin crafting a free-market replacement that puts patients first, yielding results we can all be proud of,” reads a new public petition. “But this won’t happen by itself. 2014 is our opportunity to elect a new generation of common-sense leaders who understand that their job in Washington is to solve problems — not be part of the problem.”

Find the petition and other information here: Americanlegacypac.org.


80 percent of Americans say strengthening the economy should be a top priority for White House and Congress; 75 percent of Republicans and 85 percent of Democrats agree.

74 percent cite improving the job situation; 66 percent of Republicans and 81 percent of Democrats agree.

73 percent cite defending the nation from terrorism; 81 percent of Republicans and 70 percent of Democrats agree.

63 percent cite the budget deficit; 80 percent of Republicans and 49 percent of Democrats agree.

49 percent cite protecting the environment; 28 percent of Republicans and 65 percent of Democrats agree.

43 percent cite strengthening the military; 61 percent of Republicans and 37 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Pew Research Center survey of 1,504 U.S. adults conducted Jan. 15-19.

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