Below is a checklist of what I am looking for in tonight’s State of the Union address. In addition to what is written below, I confess to feeling a certain relief—however temporary—in having the opportunity to focus on substantive policy choices and our "normal" divisions on the left and the right . So with this mind, here is what I’m looking for tonight:
1. First and foremost, while not a policy issue per se, does the president reach out to unite the American people? Does he express outrage at recent events like the murder in Kansas City and anti-Semitic events and make it clear that this is not what this country is about. Clearly, the president can do this if he chooses to. Perhaps the more compelling outcome would be an SOTU where recent events are ignored. I don’t expect that.
2. How does the president balance the interests of the traditional, free trade, lower taxes, smaller government conservative Republican portion of his base, with the interests of his supporters who are attracted to the powerful economic populist themes of the president’s message?
3. The president’s proposed military budget will reportedly call for an increase of $54 billion dollars, or perhaps more accurately as I understand it an increase of $16 billion dollars over President Obama’s previous budget. How will we pay for these increases? And how much of this increase will be used to improve service members’ lives, those currently serving, and the veterans who are left without options, if and when we return home. This is one thing that all of us I think are prepared to pay a premium for and then some. Given that, keep in mind that to his credit, the president has bucked much of his party’s establishment and has pledged to hold the line on Social Security and Medicaire.
4. How does the president’s military budget relate to his foreign policy goals, to the extent that those goals are addressed as expected tonight. Will the president address his apparent plans to reduce “soft war” diplomatic programs reported to be on the chopping block at the State Department? Remember, as I understand it, “foreign aid” constitutes approximately 1 percent of the entire annual federal budget. Will he address, as Defense Secretary Mattis expressly has, the direct relationship between military and “soft war” expenditures?
5. Repeal and Replace. See No. 1 above. And seriously, let’s acknowledge that the president is not the author of repeal and replace. I honestly believe that he does not agree with those who would strip the ACA of its most vital protections. But, given the political bind that creates within his own base right up to and including the leaders of his own political party, I’m looking forward to seeing how this is what is reflected in what the president says.
6. The president has pledged, like most of his recent predecessors, to reduce federal regulations. An endless topic, but I’m focusing on his environmental and labor protection statements, one again to the extent such statements are made.
7. Americans have necessarily spent an inordinate amount of time debating immigration. Tonight, the First Lady will be sitting with family members of Americans killed by undocumented immigrants. Given everything else above, I’ll just leave this here and note that this is an issue that can override everything else that the president might discuss. And, of course, there is the wall (which keeps making this lefty recall the themes in the story of that Tower of Babel. . .but I digress).
These are just my own thoughts and for the most I’ve listed what I’m looking to hear – in no particular order, and with no representation that it is meant to be fully comprehensive. Your own thoughts would be most welcome, and I have written this with the hope of provoking discussion. Thank you if you have made it this far.
Bruce S. Levine
Tweeting when irritated or otherwise impulsively and without due consideration at @levine_bruce .