All eyes will be on President Barack Obama tonight as he gives the fifth State of the Union address of his presidency. Obama will lay out his agenda for the rest of the year, and all signs point to this year’s speech being heavily focused on income inequality. Whether or not Obama can actually do something about that agenda, though, is another question.
Indeed, that very question was posed to White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. Why exactly had the three major policy objectives Obama put forward in last year’s SOTU fall completely flat? Or, more generally, why didn’t anything get done last year? Well, Jay Carney has an answer:
Congress. The president, if you recall third grade social studies class, can’t do everything alone. He needs Congress to pass legislation he puts forward. And the three major policy goals Obama highlighted last year died in Congress. The Senate killed background checks. A minimum wage raise died in the House. And Congress as a whole did zilch on immigration reform.
Sure, Obama can take a bit of action on his own – and on Tuesday morning, he did, using an executive order to raise the minimum wage for federal contractors. But any policies he lays out tonight need the support of Congress, and he’s unlikely to get it.
Which means, really, that tonight’s SOTU doesn’t matter much. Obama’s approval ratings remain pretty lousy, and no matter how much the media will try to make it matter, his address tonight won’t do much to change public opinion. Obama can’t do anything tonight to make Congress or the American people like him any better. So things will remain the status quo.
But you should still watch tonight. Because even if you can’t stand the guy, you have to admit the president is one hell of a speaker.