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The 2013 State of the Union Address blog

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Fairfax's live coverage of the 2013 State of the Union Speech by US President Barack Obama

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Obama pushes for jobs for middle class

In his State of the Union address US President Obama challenges Congress to back proposals for a smarter, not bigger, government.

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Rubio's rebuttal - and water lunge

From Nick O'Malley...

Minutes after the President spoke, Marco Rubio, the Cuban-American Senator from Florida gave a passionate rebuttal, describing Mr Obama's vision as one of smothering and expensive big government. He described an alternative in which an ideal government would focus on protecting and defending the nation and enforceing the law.

Senator Rubio's selection as the speaker was notable because of the renewed focus by both parties in appealing to Hispanic voters. The job is high-profile but dangerous. Louisana Governor Bobby Jindal was panned for his rebuttal.

Senator Rubio, a fine speaker, did a better job, but looked odd lunging for a bottle of water off-camera part way through his speech.

He ended by calling on God to bless not only the President, but the greatest nation the world has ever known.

That's it for us, folks. Thanks for following. Please keep an eye out for Nick's wrap up of the State of the Union speech.

State of the Union


To get a good idea of the balance of Obama's speech, check out this word cloud: 'jobs' and 'America' seem to have fared well.

Very broadly, the presumed chorus of opposition from Republicans should be seen in the context of the most recent elections. There are signs that Republicans have taken lessons from their pounding at the polls in 2012, and recognise that the population, and thus priorities of the US, are changing.

Giving the rebuttal to the state of the union is Florida Senator Marco Rubio, considered a rising star in the ranks of the GOP and a possible answer to the kind of figure Obama has been for the Democrats.

The prospect that Republicans are willing to get behind a Hispanic candidate for president shows the GOP may be moving away from a strategy of relying on issue that resound with white voters for electoral wins.

The broadening of the GOP base through this sort of candidate acknowledges the demographic shift underway in the US, in which soon, there will be no single majority group. This opens up the possibility of a GOP that can embrace the kind sort of domestic reform not entirely different from Obama’s wish-list.

The question, of course, is how quickly this change occurs, and whether Republicans in congress want to embrace it now, or take their chances, hold out in defiance of Obama, and take their chances with voters in 2014.

More on immigration

O'Malley writes...

There was never any chance that the President would not focus on immigration reform in this speech. There are 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US, and though the are the backbone for several
industries they live in a legal shadow-land, as do many of their children.

Sympathy for the group is high among the fastest growing US demographic, the broader Hispanic community, who Obama won over in the November election by 70 per cent to 30 per cent.

Tonight’s Republican response will be given – in English and Spanish - by Marco Rubio, the eloquent 41-year-old Cuban American who many establishment Republicans are portraying as the party’s future. Both parties are aware of how important immigration reform as a matter of politics and policy.

Sarah Palin is not buyin' it

 Obama: State of our Union is 'Stronger' (Video Thumbnail) Click to play video

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Obama: State of our union is stronger

President Barack Obama promised to create solid new jobs without raising the federal deficit.

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Voting rights


The President announced a bipartisan commission to investigate ways to improve the voting the process in the US where voting is administered at the local, rather than federal, level.

 

From Fairfax's Nick O’Malley...

It was fairly clear the President was going to address voting rights when the First Lady’s guest list was revealed early today, and it included that 102-year-old Miami resident Desiline Victor. She was one of thousands of Floridians who were forced to wait for hours to vote in the November election.

Today the White House reported that a crowd of thousands of people erupted in applause when she finally emerged from the polling booth wearing an "I Voted" sticker.

Problems at polling stations were reported from around the country on election day in November, and in the year leading up to the election Democrats complained that Republican state governors were introducing
laws that tended to discourage minorities – who lean towards the Democratic Party – from voting.

In June the Pennsylvanian Republican Mike Turzai declared, a voter identification law he championed, “is going to allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania: done."

Desiline Victor, the 102-year-old Haitian immigrant from Florida waited for three hours to vote early for the president in late October before being told to return later to avoid the crowd. Ms Victor, a naturalised citizen, eventually cast her ballot and has since become the face of voting reform.

Desiline Victor, the 102-year-old Haitian immigrant from Florida waited for three hours to vote early for the president in late October before being told to return later to avoid the crowd. Ms Victor, a naturalised citizen, eventually cast her ballot and has since become the face of voting reform. Photo: Reuters

Twitter: Too Much Clapping, Drones, Being a Man

 

Obama acknowledges the North Korean bomb

North Korea and Iran both get name-checked by Obama, saying North Korea's provocations only encourage allies to oppose Pyongyang, and pledged to help prevent Iran from building a bomb.

On to cybersecurity....

Mr Obama issued an executive order aimed at boosting US cybersecurity for vital assets such as power grids and water-treatment plants after congress failed to pass legislation.

The order directs the government to develop a voluntary program of cybersecurity standards for companies operating critical, privately owned infrastructure.

The government will have to share more on cyber threats, including classified information, with the private sector. The order expands the sharing of classified threat data with defense contractors and Internet-service providers to include infrastructure owners and the companies that provide them with network security.

Mr Obama has said infrastructure such as nuclear plants and railway systems that serve millions of people are vulnerable to hacking and require greater protection. U.S. officials have urged stronger steps to counter cyber espionage by China, saying in a November 2011 report that Chinese hackers are jeopardizing an estimated $398 billion in research investments by companies, universities and government agencies.

Mr Obama called for more cooperation from congress to better secure the computer networks in the US and its allies.

Violence Against Women Act

Nick O'Malley notes that Obama's mentions of the Violence Against Women Act are designed to embarrass House Republicans, who are likely to vote it down. Marco Rubio, who is giving the Republican response later tonight voted against the Act earlier today.

Minimum wage


Mr Obama calls for a lift in the minimum wage. In the US, federal minimum wage, on which many other wages are based, is changed only through an act of Congress.

Raising the hourly federal minimum wage to $US9 from $US7.25 by the end of 2015 would return it to its highest inflation- adjusted value since 1981, under President Ronald Reagan, according to the White House.

Such an increase, affecting an estimated 15 million people, would require approval by Congress. Republican lawmakers have repeatedly criticised such proposals, saying a higher minimum wage would throw lower-paid employees out of work because of the cost to businesses.

 

Obama: Tax, entitlement reform won't be easy (Video Thumbnail) Click to play video

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Obama: Tax, entitlement reform won't be easy

RAW VISION: US President Barack Obama urged a deeply divided Congress to embrace his plans to use government money to create jobs.

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The flavour of Twitter

 

Immigration

Obama: "The time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform...now is the time to get it done."

Calls for more security on Mexico border, as a condition to allowing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already living in the US.

Children take an oath of allegiance during a citizenship ceremony at the Chicago Cultural Center on February 12, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois.

Children take an oath of allegiance during a citizenship ceremony at the Chicago Cultural Center on February 12, 2013 in Chicago, Illinois. Photo: AFP

Talking climate change

Signalling a more aggressive approach to intransigent and ideologically opposed Congress, Mr Obama said he would  act on his own to tackle climate change unless lawmakers could come up with their own market-based plan to reduce carbon emissions.

Mr Obama pledged to support the development of wind and solar power along with cleaner natural gas in the world’s largest economy and set a goal of improving efficiency to cut the energy wasted by homes and businesses by half in the next 20 years.

And with good reason.

Superstorm Sandy was the deadliest hurricane in the northeastern US in 40 years and the second-costliest in the nation’s history, AP reports.

The storm’s effects reached far and wide, according to the National Hurricane Centre report, released on Tuesday.

The hurricane centre attributed 72 US deaths directly to Sandy, from Maryland to New Hampshire. That is more than any hurricane to affect the northeastern US since Hurricane Agnes killed 122 people in 1972, according to the centre’s records covering 1851 to 2010.

A Republican rebuttal

 

Leaked remarks from the Republican Senator Marco Rubio, himself considered a rising star in the GOP, focused on the poor performance of the economy to date under President Obama. Senator Rubio called for Mr Obama to ‘‘ abandon his obsession with raising taxes.’’..

“Economic growth is the best way to help the middle class. Unfortunately, our economy actually shrank during the last three months of 2012.  But if we can get the economy to grow at just 4 percent a year, it would create millions of middle class jobs. And it could reduce our deficits by almost $4 trillion dollars over the next decade.  

‘‘Tax increases can’t do this. Raising taxes won’t create private sector jobs. And there’s no realistic tax increase that could lower our deficits by almost $4 trillion. That’s why I hope the President will abandon his obsession with raising taxes and instead work with us to achieve real growth in our economy.”

Senator Rubio instead focused on the US’s staggering debt levels as a cause of concern.

“The real cause of our debt is that our government has been spending 1 trillion dollars more than it takes in every year. That’s why we need a balanced budget amendment.  The biggest obstacles to balancing the budget are programs where spending is already locked in...Anyone who is in favor of leaving Medicare exactly the way it is right now, is in favor of bankrupting it.”

Twitter responds

 

Key words

Macs Made in the USA? 3D-printing? Collaboration between business and government in industrial innovation?

An unapologetic vision for government working in market. Clashes sharply with the free-market approach embraced on the right and moderate left in recent years.

Now on to climate change...

Investment-led growth talk from Obama

President Barack Obama is telling congressional Republicans that he is still willing to reduce the deficit, but only with a mix of increased taxes and reduced spending, an offer he made during budget talks that collapsed at the end of last year.   

Republicans say they reject raising more tax revenue.

Mr Obama is reiterating his proposal to reduce spending by $US900 billion and increase taxes by $US600 billion through a tax overhaul.   

The combined $US1.5 trillion in deficit reduction would also reduce government payments on the debt. Mr Obama intends to use some of those savings to pay for initiatives meant to create jobs.The $US900 billion in cuts include reductions of $400 billion in spending on Medicare and other health care programs.

"Tonight, I'll lay out additional proposals that are fully paid for and fully consistent with the budget framework both parties agreed to just 18 months ago. Let me repeat – nothing I'm proposing tonight should increase our deficit by a single dime. It's not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth." AP

Obama wants expanded access to pre-school (Video Thumbnail) Click to play video

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Obama wants expanded access to pre-school

US President Barack Obama wants all 50 states to provide pre-kindergarten schools for 4-year-olds.

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From another potential Republican hopeful, Louisana Governor Bobby Jindal...

 

Hitting those broad themes


Obama: A ‘‘rising, thriving middle class’’ is the ‘‘true engine of America’s growth...’’

‘‘The American people don’t expect the government to solve every problem...but they do expect us to put the nation’s interests before party.’’

Then and now

A handy chart comparing the health of the US economy from Mr Obama’s first State of the Union Address in January 2009 to today, thanks to our friends at the BusinessDay MarketsLive blog. For more on the markets click here.

 

What's at stake

Mr Obama is expected to remind Republicans that his recent reelection signals the American public has shifted in Mr Obama’s direction, if ever so slightly, and the Republicans must come to terms with that. The hope is that slowly enough Republicans will come around, in both the House and Senate, to embrace some of Mr Obama’s agenda around immigration, gun-control, policy reforms for the middle-class, investments in clean energy, infrastructure, education and high-technology. The fear for the White House is that the Republicans don’t come around soon enough, putting at risk a more robust recovery in the US economy that puts the middle-class back on track toward a prosperous future. It would also put a dampener on Obama’s legacy, if he goes down in history as a president whose legislative agenda and vision for the country was hamstrung by Republican opposition.

Friends of the politicians

A telling piece by Nick O'Malley on the guest lists of Republicans and Democrats at the State of the Union Speech.

One way to get an idea of just how divided these United States are is to have a quick glance at the guest list for the State of the Union speech.


Among those invited by the First Lady is the policeman Brian Murphy, who was shot 15 times while responding to a mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in August, as well as Cleopatra Cowley-Pendleton and Nathaniel Pendleton snr, the parents of 15-year-old Hadiya, who was shot dead in a Chicago park last month while sheltering from rain with her friends from the volleyball team.

On the other side of the aisle, Texas Republican Steve Stockman invited Ted Nugent, the Detroit singer famous for raising a pair of machine guns during a concert in 2007 and snarling, "Obama, he's a piece of s––t. I told him to suck on my machine gun.’’

Musician and gun activist Ted Nugent at a National Rifle Association convention in 2011.

Musician and gun activist Ted Nugent at a National Rifle Association convention in 2011. Photo: AP

Obama enters

President Obama enters the chamber to applause. A pretty stone-faced John Boehner, Republican of the House.

Stephen Chu, the outgoing energy secretary, drew the short straw, tonight, writes Nick O'Malley. He is the cabinet member who has been banished to a bunker somewhere in order to secure the line of presidential succession should someone successfully knock out the Capitol Building tonight, killing everyone else in line.

Excerpts of the speech - a focus on the economy


Nick O’Malley reports that excerpts from the Mr Obama’s speech suggest the president is planning to cast his economic argument in the same terms that he used during the election.

He will emphasise the role and the importance of middle-class job growth, and on the need of the very wealthiest to kick more into the kitty.

 

He will also seek to cast the his own party as willing to compromise to find a solution to the fiscal crisis fabricated by Congress known as the sequester – the massive automatic spending cuts due to begin at the beginning of March.

"It is our generation's task, then, to reignite the true engine of America's economic growth – a rising, thriving middle class," Mr Obama is expected to say.

“It is our unfinished task to restore the basic bargain that built this country – the idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities, you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love."

 

“It is our unfinished task to make sure that this government works on behalf of the many, and not just the few; that it encourages free enterprise, rewards individual initiative, and opens the doors of opportunity to every child across this great nation of ours." 

Mr Obama is also expected to argue that ‘‘growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs’’ must be ‘‘the North Star" that guides the nation's efforts.

North Korea detonated a nuclear device Tuesday in defiance of the international community, including the US and China. Pyongyang’s act  - apparently deliberately timed to coincide with the run up to the State of the Union - prompted Obama to close ranks with his South Korean counterpart Lee Myung-Bak. Last month North Korea lodged a request to reopen its embassy in Canberra, which had been closed since 2008.

A post from Nick O'Malley on the writer of the SOTU:

 

Obama has a track record of working with young speechwriters known for
being smart and possessing the ability to channel’s the President’s
language and cadence. His current chief speechwriter, the 31-year-old
Jon Favreau, leaves at the end of March, reportedly for Hollywood.

Obama wrote tonight’s speech with the incoming team leader, Cody
Keenan, 32, who began as an intern with the campaign in 2007. His star
rose when it was revealed he was the lead writer on the speech Obama
made after the mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, in which
congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot in the head.

The speech is still considered one of Obama’s best, and at the time
many credited it with re-setting his presidency after a turbulent few
months. Back then he said in an interview with a magazine published by
his alma Mater, Northwestern University, “The truth is, President
Obama rewrote a lot of [the Tucson speech]. We [speechwriters] don’t
always hit the sweet spot, but the president knocked that one out of
the park. It was one of those moments that reminded me why I chose to
work for him in the first place.”

 

US President Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama

Hi folks. We will be live-blogging President Barack Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address beginning at 12.30pm. We will have expert commentary from Fairfax’s Washington correspondent Nick O’Malley @npomalley, as well as wire news services and voices from across the political spectrum.

Obama’s speech is expected to focus on jobs, immigration, gun control, as well as cyber security.

It may also include an announcement of a hastened troop draw-down in Afghanistan.

The US economy contracted by 0.1 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2012, shrinking for the first time in three and-a-half-years. The jobless rate is at 7.9 per cent four years after the financial crisis first hit, showing the recovery in the US  is painfully slow.

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  • My attempt as a speech writer....
    My fellow Americans, things are pretty gloomy, the cupboard is bare, we have way too many crackpots with guns and we love our drones, God Bless America as no-one else does!

    Commenter
    shemp
    Location
    melb
    Date and time
    February 13, 2013, 3:35PM
  • A leader full of hot air and spin- sounds like Julia

    Commenter
    gc
    Location
    Date and time
    February 13, 2013, 2:49PM
    • tiresome ignorant insults in lieu of informed comments are so repetitive by the same few. So disrespectful of leaders who work harder than Gc would ever know. Ever heard of the phrase empty cans make the most sound.

      Commenter
      jakadee
      Location
      ourne
      Date and time
      February 13, 2013, 11:15PM
  • The fake standing ovations after every sentence make me want to puke.

    Commenter
    geoff
    Location
    burraneer
    Date and time
    February 13, 2013, 2:30PM
  • brilliant.
    half new energy from windpower, increase in gas production reduces CO2 emissions (fraccing achieved this).
    Why oh why can't we have a leader of his calibre who is not bowing to the ill informed lobby trying to stop fraccing.
    kinell.

    Commenter
    kinell
    Location
    Date and time
    February 13, 2013, 1:41PM
  • A leader with vision - if only Australia had this.

    Instead we have handouts and not much else.

    Would any government invest in our infrastructure - there are so many complaints about the nbn - is it any wonder governments don't invest in infrastructure.

    Commenter
    iceyone
    Location
    brisbane
    Date and time
    February 13, 2013, 1:40PM

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