Last week, President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address to Congress and the American public. In light of the continued recession and his dropping approval ratings, this particular speech was viewed to be a critical point in his presidency. Dennis Plane, associate professor of politics, gives background and insight to Obama’s address.
How important is the State of the Union address?
The Constitution was never very specific about the Address’ purpose; it simply mandates that the President speak to Congress occasionally regarding the “state of the Union.” The President can essentially make it what he wants. Generally, he uses it to recommend policies to Congress and rally the public.
What was Obama’s objective in his speech?
He focused heavily on reassuring the American people that he has empathy for them, and recognizing their unhappiness. In essence, he was trying to regain their confidence. Of course, he was also continuing to press his agenda to both Congress and the public.
Is the speech going to help his public opinion?
It will likely slow or stop the decline in ratings. People already like him as a person, but whenever the economy is down, there will be discontent with the president. He was trying to appeal directly to those hit hardest by the recession: the unemployed and the middle class.
How effective was the speech rhetorically?
He’s a very gifted speaker; that much is certain. He has excellent control and ability to relate. The tone of this speech was less formal than that of, say, George W. Bush. I think he was trying to recapture some of the momentum he had during his campaign, trying to speak like candidate Obama.
How effective, in your opinion, is this speech going to be politically?
Well, that’s the million-dollar question. We really don’t know at this point. The critical point comes when the typical citizen begins to see improvement — then the approval ratings will jump. He can say, “I stopped decline,” but people want to see growth, not just the absence of decline.
-Joe Aultman-Moore ’12, Juniata Online Journalist