State of the Union

President Obama's second inaugural address was widely perceived as a throwing down of the gauntlet in how it framed his progressive faith in government and challenged his Republican political opponents in any number of ways.

Given that, expect to see more glove-throwing Tuesday as the president delivers the first State of the Union speech of his second term.

As the president delivered the final State of the Union address of his term before a looming re-election battle, he looked out at a sea of angry and skeptical Republicans who had fought him on budgets, government shutdowns, and whether or not to raise the nation's debt ceiling.

And what did President Bill Clinton do in 1996?

He delivered his "the era of big government is over" speech, which The Washington Post summed up this way: "Clinton Embraced GOP Themes in Setting Agenda."

Given the nonstop, stereo-rock news cycle, the warp speed tempo of geopolitics and the constant to-and-fro between the media and the president, has the State of the Union address become obsolete?

Traditionally, the speech — an annual where-we-stand lecture delivered by the president to a joint session of Congress — has for decades been an opportunity for the professor in chief to issue a national report card and put current events in calm, codifiable context.

Tonight, President Obama is set to deliver the final state of the union address of his first term. Morning Edition's Renee Montagne spoke to White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe for a preview of the president's speech.

New Republic: State of the Union listening guide

Jan 24, 2012

Jonathan Bernstein blogs at A Plain Blog About Politics.

Even with the major distraction of a Republican presidential primary, tonight's State of the Union speech will guaranteed to, however briefly, capture the undivided attention of all political junkies. They're not wrong: The annual tradition does matter. And yet the conventional wisdom about the importance of the speech tends to be almost exactly backwards.

NPR.org

In President Obama’s State of the Union speech, he got the biggest laugh of the night when – to illustrate the need to simplify government – he made a crack about salmon management.

"The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they're in saltwater ... I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked."

See it here, along with a shot of Commerce Secretary (and former Washington Governor) Gary Locke trying to be a good sport.