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Barack Obama's State of the Union: Spin and the speech

  • 11 February 2013
  • From the section US & Canada
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US President Barack Obama
Mr Obama is expected to shift the focus back on to the US economy

Sometimes, the spin is more interesting than the speech.

President Obama is soon to make one of the big set piece speeches of the year - the State of the Union.

The White House has already told us it is part of a twin pack with his controversial inauguration address.

Now, they are telling major media outlets like ABC and the Washington Post that, on Tuesday night, the focus will be on the economy.

It's not surprising. Two things were striking about Mr Obama's inauguration address.

Firstly, that there was little attempt to play the part of a healing president, stretching out to soothe the fears of those who didn't vote for him.

It was a forthright, even aggressive, promotion of a liberal agenda for his second term.

He argued that progressive values are, fundamentally, the expression of America's deepest values and follow the arc of American history. Republicans hated that.

Secondly, that main concern of many Americans - the economy - was scarcely mentioned.

The passion was reserved for the issues of gun control, climate change, gay rights and immigration.

It is true he talked about "new jobs" twice, once in the context of green energy and once when talking about re-building America's infrastructure.

Republicans have made much play of this, suggesting he was ignoring the country's most fundamental problems.

The White House may be acknowledging that the inauguration address was a little lopsided.

Maybe Mr Obama simply wanted to say something different. He has, after all, spoken about his economic vision many times before.

It was the centrepiece of the election and, indeed, of last year's State of the Union.

Then, he talked about restoring "an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules".

Now, the White House spin doctors want to condition journalists to look out for the economic content of the next speech, rather than the social issues that may dominate business in Congress.

The last thing they want is for Americans to think he is merely pleasing his base, concentrating on what some see as side issues rather than the fundamentals.

But, if there is a different accent on content, I very much doubt there will be any change to the approach.

I expect to see another iteration of the newly confrontational president, determined to use his bully pulpit to demand change and give notice to his enemies that they had better get out of his way.

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