State of the Union on tap

President Obama launches his second term officially Tuesday with a speech.

It’s not your run-of-the-mill stump speech, either. It’s what’s called The State of the Union. KACV-TV will carry it live at 8 p.m., and it well could be a barn-burner.

Here are the stakes: The nation’s economy is struggling to regain its footing; our war in Afghanistan is winding down and the nation is waiting to see if all that bloodshed and money were worth the effort; the government does not yet have a budget; Congress and the White House are arguing over gun-violence legislation; efforts to overhaul the immigration system is picking up steam.

Every single one of those issues individually could take up everyone’s time and attention. However, the president is likely to address all of them in what could be a lengthy speech to a joint session of Congress — and millions more out here in TV Land.

The State of the Union is a task that presidents perform every year. Most of them do so in a speech delivered in the House of Representatives chamber. The speaker of the House extends a formal invitation to the president, who accepts it and then stands before House members, senators, Cabinet officials, members of the Supreme Court and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The public gallery usually is full of spectators. Presidents have been fond in recent times of singling out special guests sitting in the VIP box alongside the first lady. Look for all of that Tuesday night.

And as usual, also look for smart analysis from PBS corps of journaliss and pundits of what the president says, as well as the reaction to it. Republicans will have a response ready to deliver immediately after the speech, as has been the custom with the “loyal opposition.”

Of course, my favorite part of watching these State of the Union speeches is taking note of the wild applause coming from the side of the House chamber filled with officials of the president’s party, while the other side of the room sits on its hands. Republicans are muted when Democratic presidents speak, while Democrats do the same thing to Republican presidents.

So, the question is this: How many times will the president get both sides to stand and clap?

Tune in and find out.


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