State of the Union speech unlikely to ease worries, analysts say

Historians in the News

President Obama's State of the Union speech Wednesday will be a tough sell for millions of Americans struggling under the weight of an economic recession, political analysts said....

Other presidents in their first term faced similar economic hurdles Obama is facing. In their first State of the Union speeches, President Reagan in 1982 and President Clinton in 1994 aimed to ease the nation's worries about tough economic times.

"While not quite as dramatic as Bill Clinton's announcement in his 1996 State of the Union address that the 'era of big government is over,' Obama is signaling that he wants to appeal to centrist voters concerned about government spending," said Julian Zelizer, a presidential historian and columnist.

Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian, said Obama needs to "sell jobs, jobs and more jobs" in his speech.

"It's essential that, like Clinton, he lets the American people know he feels their pain," Brinkley said. "And he needs to use fierce Reaganesque language about smashing al Qaeda. Due to the Christmas bomber debacle, Obama must explain in detail new innovative ways his administration is protecting U.S. citizens from terrorist attacks."

Zelizer argues that the real test for Obama will come after the speech, when liberals react to his center-driven approach....

Zelizer notes that there has been a long tradition of Democratic presidents taking the left for granted, which resulted in a cost to their administrations. He pointed to the Johnson, Carter and Clinton presidencies as examples....

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