The Blog

SOTU: Obama's Main Event

Will it have thrills and spills of a NASCAR race? Or will it have the numbing predictability akin to watching partisan paint drying?

Is it a world heavyweight boxing match or a Broadway opening night performance?

Will it have thrills and spills of a NASCAR race?

Or will it have the numbing predictability akin to watching partisan paint drying?

After two thunderous rounds of applause - one during president Barack Obama's first introduction by the sergeant-at-arms while he enters the House Chamber -and the second when he is officially introduced by Speaker of the House John Boehner one thing is certain.

The Republicans will remain silent, sitting on their hands while the Democrats across the aisle will yelp, howl and clap vigorously each time their party leader makes his promises about 'balanced approaches' and 'moving the country forward' into the 21st Century.

Will the 'supremes' including chief justice John Roberts remain dignified throughout offering no outward signs of pleasure or contempt?

Will any one of the Justices actually stay away citing another "previous commitment"?

Another thing is certain the joint chief's of staff, representing all the branches of America's Armed Forces, will sit stoically and obediently in front of their boss the commander-in-chief.

I was fortunate during Bill Clinton's presidency to be invited to attend the president's State of the Union Address to Congress and the nation also know as SOTU.

It was a raucous event from the start.

Just as President Clinton was about to begin his address one Member of Congress screeched "viva el presidente".

An appellation meant to show disfavor with Bill Clinton's $50 billion dollar bail-out of Mexico, which was designed to prevent a potential spill over affect into the US from the collapse of the peso and a total financial meltdown of the Mexican economy in 1995.

The epithet "you lie" shouted by South Carolina Republican representative Joe Wilson in 2010 at Barack Obama's State of the Union, was almost rejoined by speaker Nancy Pelosi's heaving her well known gavel at the Congressman's head.

Although she did restrained herself, her bone-chilling gaze may have produced a more powerful result.

With all the partisan rancor going on here in Washington, this year's follow-up to the presidents inaugural address has the potential to be a pretty lively main event.

According to Article II, Sector 3 of the US Constitution, the president "shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient".

This address has become one of the main forms of communication between the president and the US citizens who basically are his boss.

As tradition warrants president Obama will inevitably proclaim:

"The State of the Union is Sound"

Since the invention of radio and television, the speech has been broadcast live on most networks.

The first of these regular messages to the Congress was delivered by George Washington on January 8, 1790 which was the shortest speech.

President William Howard Taft gave the longest in 1910.

Since then the State of the Union Address has changed in its nature in both content, presentation and delivery.

President Calvin Coolidge was the first president to broadcast his speech by radio in 1923.

President Harry Truman gave the first TV broadcast in 1947 and George W. Bush was the first to do a live web cast of his State of the Union Speech in 2002.

In a formal letter of invitation to the president to address the joint session of Congress on February 12th speaker Boehner wrote - "This will require a willingness to seek common ground as well as presidential leadership. For that reason, the Congress and the Nation would welcome an opportunity to hear your plan and specific solutions for addressing America's great challenges."

With all the recent focus on America's 16th President, choosing Abraham Lincoln's birthday, 12 February, seems like a perfect tribute and perhaps a subtle attempt at bi-partisanship.

So, what's on the menu?

The president is very likely to use this bully pulpit opportunity to make his best case for a balanced approach to avoid the sequester and the related budgetary issues.

Following the rash of gun violence the president will also make a plea to the American people at home for common sense gun control and to empower them to engage the assembled members of Congress before him.

White House press secretary Jay Carney on Wednesday hinted that president Obama could outline his proposal for immigration reform in his State of the Union.

"I would say, broadly speaking, that State of the Union addresses tend to include at least a sample of a president's agenda, Carney said at his daily press briefing. And immigration reform, comprehensive immigration reform, is a very high priority of the president's."

During a recent press conference, president Obama outlined broad objectives for his desired immigration package - although he did not provide specifics.

President Obama said "it should include a continuation of the strong border security measures that we've taken, because we have to secure our borders."

He also said it should contain serious penalties for companies that are purposely hiring undocumented workers and taking advantage of them.

He also mentioned that he thinks that there should be a pathway for legal status for those who are living in this country, are not engaged in criminal activity and are here simply to work.

But his press secretary was reluctant to get ahead of the speech. A wise idea not to preempt the boss.

In an effort to re-define themselves the Republicans have discovered a new found urgency to get the so called immigration issue behind them well in advance of the 2014 midterm elections.

It is abundantly clear that being associated with the extreme views of the Republican party's platform on the immigration issue is a huge millstone around the party's neck which makes any potential outreach to the Latino community all but futile.

It is no surprise then to anyone here in Washington that the Republican's have selected Florida senator Marco Rubio to give their SOTU response Tuesday night.

The choice of Rubio - dubbed by Time Magazine as "the Republican Savior" and "new voice of the GOP" - to deliver the Republican response has major significance.

Rubio, who was elected as part of the Tea Party wave in 2010 is a son of Cuban immigrants and part of a bipartisan group of Senators working on immigration reform legislation.

Rubio will deliver the response in both English and Spanish.

So sit back and enjoy the show.

There will be a little something for everyone.

Jon-Christopher Bua's blogposts for Sky appear here.