Obama makes speech tonight; bipartisan efforts scrutinized
President Barack Obama tonight delivers his first address to a joint session of Congress, where Republicans are wondering whether his bipartisan efforts will help dig the country out of its deepening recession.
The televised, State of the Union-style speech will tackle the economy, the economy, the economy, because thats whats on peoples minds, said political consultant Hank Sheinkopf. He sees the economy as almost a wartime issue, and hes the commander in chief for the economy.
Obamas momentum and his 63 percent approval rating are tied to public confidence in his $787 billion economic stimulus, experts said. His toughest task is to reassure Americans his measures will work.
A lot of it is still psychological; a lot of the public thinks its not worth it, said Joseph Mercurio, a New York-based political consultant. Its a hard sell.
Especially to conservatives, the administrations harshest critics and most essential allies.The stimulus package passed in the House with no Republican support.
Several GOP governors, including South Carolinas Mark Sanford and Louisianas Bobby Jindal, said they might reject part of the stimulus funds. The plan wastes money and could ultimately hurt more than help, they insisted. (Others, like Floridas Charlie Crist and Californias Arnold Schwarzenegger, said they would support the president.)
It would be like spending a dollar to make a dime, Jindal said on Meet the Press.
Earlier this month, New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, who was to be a Republican addition to the Cabinet, dropped his bid for Commerce secretary over irreconcilable differences. Additionally, the Republican National Committee has issued a statement saying the Obamas first month was about wasteful spending, failed bipartisanship and questionable ethics.
This bipartisan thing is not working out so well, said Kevin Wardally, a government affairs expert with Bill Lynch Associates. I dont think he needs to go overboard, but its great that he believes its a realistic goal.
James Morone, an authority on bipartisan relations at Brown University, also questions the success of Obamas olive branch, but said the president is expected to reiterate his message of cooperation tonight.
Hell say, Lets begin by being respectful and why dont you come to me with your ideas, but dont give me the same old ideas you had for George Bush, said Morone, author of Hellfire Nation.
Experts said they expect no surprise announcements in tonights address, which begins at 9 p.m., but said health care reform and fighting in Afghanistan will also likely be mentioned, experts said.
On Thursday, Obama will outline his first budget as president. He wants to halve the $1.3 trillion deficit by the end of his first term, and will scale back Iraq war spending and increase taxes on the nations wealthiest, experts said.
For goals this ambitious, Obama will need the support of Republicans and not just the few votes required to break Senate filibuster. Experts predict his attempts at bringing the parties together are only beginning.
If youre trying to flip the page, like Reagan did, like Roosevelt did, Morone said. You have to appear above partisanship and make it part of something thats patriotic.
Jindal is scheduled to rebut Obamas address tonight on behalf of the Republicans.