Tales from the Trail

Obama’s big speech may draw bipartisan seating arrangement

A top Republican on Friday embraced a Democratic proposal to project a sense of national unity by having members of their respective parties sit together at President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address to Congress on Jan. 25 

“I like the idea,” House Republican Whip Kevin McCarthy told reporters at the second day of a three-day retreat in Baltimore by the new House Republican majority. “I think the American public would find it as a positive,” he said.OBAMA/

Democrats and Republicans traditionally sit divided by party at the annual State of the Union Address. Partisanship is on display with members of one party — and then the other — standing to clap when they like what the president says, and sitting quietly when they don’t.

Democratic Senator Mark Udall suggested on Thursday that lawmakers intermingle at this year’s event. The idea was first offered by the moderate think tank Third Way.

The suggestion came on the heels of the attempted assassination in Arizona on Saturday of Representative Gabrielle Giffords that left six dead and 14 others wounded, including the Democratic lawmaker. The shooting spree stunned the nation and raised questions on whether U.S. political rhetoric had become too heated, too partisan.

Washington Extra – Circle that date

Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States accepts your invitation.

The pomp and circumstance that surrounds the president’s annual State of the Union address to Congress has begun with the delivery of the invitation from House Speaker John Boehner to President Barack Obama at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. (It’s still on paper, not an Evite). OBAMA/

“A new Congress provides us a renewed opportunity to find common ground and address the priorities of the American people,” Boehner said in the invitation for Obama to address a Joint Session of Congress on January 25.

“Recent events have reminded us of the imperfect nature of our representative democracy, but also how much we cherish the ideal that our government exists to serve the people,” he wrote.

If healthcare wasn’t enough, Obama just picked another fight

One thing is clear. President Barack Obama is not afraid of a fight.

He battled all last year with Republicans and some of his own Democrats trying to get healthcare reform through the political headwinds. OBAMA/

Now he’s going to take on Republicans with trying to repeal the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy on gays serving in the military.

“This year, I will work with Congress and our military to finally repeal the law that denies gay Americans the right to serve the country they love because of who they are,” Obama said. “It’s the right thing to do.”

Obama plays to disaffected audience but most don’t blame him

USA-HEALTHCARE/OBAMA

When President Obama reaches the podium for tonight’s State of the Union address, he’ll turn to a TV audience fed up with Washington and its incessant partisan bickering. But guess what: most viewers won’t be blaming him.
    
More than 90 percent of the American public thinks there’s too much partisan infighting and 70 percent say the federal government isn’t working well, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
    
But who’s the culprit? Only 27 percent blame the president. The biggest target of public disaffection are Republicans in Congress — at 48 percent — followed by congressional Democrats at 41 percent.  Conducted Jan. 23-25, the survey of 800 adults has a 3.5 percent margin of error.
    
If the numbers are accurate, Obama’s message may find a fair amount of audience sympathy, particularly for his much-anticipated emphasis on jobs, the economy and curbs on Wall Street’s excesses.
    
Nearly three-quarters say not enough has been done to regulate Wall Street and the banking industry, while 51 percent want more emphasis on economic matters than they’ve seen up to now.
    
In fact, poll respondents are fairly optimistic about Obama’s future, with 54 percent saying he is facing either a short-term setback or no setback at all. There are even signs that his overall job approval rating has begun to edge up.

Photo credit: Reuters/Jason Reed (Obama)

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State-of-the-Union Bingo!

LEISURE PLAYBOY JAZZYes, of course, President Obama’s State of the Union address is a serious occasion, full of solemn portents for the nation and the world. But even Washington wonks have to have a little fun. Strangely enough, they’re likely to have fun this year by playing SOTU bingo.

For the uninitiated, SOTU bingo involves modified bingo cards, usually filled in with various words or phrases the president is likely to utter. It’s pretty easy to figure out which bingo-card-makers are friendly to Obama and which are foes. Some simply want to push a cause and hope Obama brings it up when he talks to Congress on Wednesday night.

The Center for Global Development offers a sober-sided set of bingo cards, with terms like “G-20,” “security,” “foreign aid” and “globalization” on its grid. “Will President Obama mention global development during his first official State of the Union address? Will he discuss girls’ health, immigration, or the environment?” the group asked on its Web site, urging folks to tally up whether Obama mentions any of these as they fill in their cards.

Obama gambles on reconnecting with voters… others bet on his tie

A lot is riding on President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address Wednesday to a joint session of Congress.

The president is gambling he can reconnect with voters and turn the tide of populist anger that threatens his signature healthcare legislation.

Other folks are betting he’ll wear a red tie.

USA-HEALTHCARE/OBAMAAnd speak between 51 and 53 minutes.

And say the words “healthcare reform” before other well-worn phrases, like “as I stand here today” or “fundamental belief.”

Obama says football helmet will come in handy at State of the Union

OBAMA/President Barack Obama, who has taken some friendly fire from his Democratic Party this week, was presented with a handy piece of protective headgear on Friday that he promised to put to good use.

“I’ll need this during the State of the Union,” he said in Elyria, Ohio. Obama will give the address before Congress on Wednesday.

“I could knock some heads with it,” he said, brandishing the gleaming football helmet complete with the presidential eagle and his number – 44 – presented by the Riddell sports company during a visit to promote policies on jobs and healthcare reform.

“Heroism fatigue”: another hurdle for U.S. climate change action?

GERMANY/Could “heroism fatigue” be yet another bump in the road for any U.S. law to curb climate change? And what is “heroism fatigue” anyway?

To Paul Bledsoe of the bipartisan National Commission on Energy Policy, heroism fatigue is what happens when the Congress has spent most of the year doing something heroic, like trying to hammer out an agreement on healthcare reform, when what lawmakers might rather be doing is naming a new post office. Following one big, gnarly piece of legislation with another — like a bill to limit climate-warming carbon dioxide — can seem daunting.

“Especially Democrats want to get  back to some meat-and-potatoes job-creation stuff,” Bledsoe says. “They’re going to need a little time after healthcare.”