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Obama to Shift Focus Back to Jobs, Economy in SOTU
Job one for President Obama in his State of the Union address will be to convince Americans that his top priority is their jobs.
White House officials tell me they feel stung by coverage of the Inaugural Address. Reporters highlighted the president’s left-leaning stances on immigration, gun control, climate change, and gay and women’s rights. Obama’s aides argue that he devoted more Inaugural Address language to the economy, jobs, and the deficit than all other issues combined.
Still, the perception remains that Obama lost focus on the economy—the top issue in the minds of most voters.
So look for an address Tuesday tilted heavily toward policies pledging action on joblessness, growing the economy, and expanding the middle class, White House officials said Friday. The other issues will be discussed, aides said, but there will be no mistake that Obama’s paramount concern is the economy.
THE REAL STATE OF THE UNION. President Obama will tell you one thing in his speech next week, but there are some hard numbers that tell us exactly how the country is doing, at least on economic matters like job growth and the national debt. As National Journal’s Brian McGill reports, Obama has now presided over 28 straight months of job gains, but has also overseen a national debt that has grown from $7.54 trillion in 2009 to an estimated $11.58 trillion in 2013. See more numbers here.
- When it comes to the State of the Union speech, The Washington Post has more infographics, including the fact that George W. Bush used the word “hope” more in his addresses than Obama has.
CLINTON TO DEMS: GOP MODERATION STRATEGY COULD WORK. Former President Bill Clinton addressed House Democrats today at their annual retreat in Virginia, telling them they should not scoff at GOP attempts to moderate their views on immigration and other issues. “It’s easy to sneer at that,” he said. “This strategy of theirs is not necessarily guaranteed to fail.” He also encouraged Democrats to go after moderate white voters. Read more
DID WIRED FIND THE U.S. DRONE BASE IN SAUDI ARABIA? On Tuesday, The New York Times and The Washington Post reported on the existence of a previously secret U.S. drone base in Saudia Arabia. Now Wired believes it’s located the base—on Bing Maps. “These satellite images show a remote airstrip deep in the desert of Saudi Arabia,” the magazine reports. “It may or may not be the secret U.S. drone base revealed by reporters earlier this week. But the base’s hangars bear a remarkable resemblance to similar structures found on other American drone outposts. And its remote location—dozens of miles from the nearest highway, and farther still to the nearest town—suggests that this may be more than the average civilian airstrip.” Read more
SUPER BOWL BLACKOUT MYSTERY SOLVED. Beyoncé is officially off the hook. Turns out that 34-minute blackout at the Superdome on Sunday was caused by “an electrical device that had been installed expressly to prevent a power outage,” the Associated Press reports. Read more
BIPARTISAN SENATE GROUP LOOKS TO EXPAND BACKGROUND CHECKS. A bipartisan group of senators is negotiating an expansion of background checks for gun purchases, the Associated Press reports. Two of the senators, Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., are NRA members. Two of them, Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., have F ratings from the organization. Read more
BUSH FAMILY E-MAILS HACKED. A criminal investigation is under way after hackers gained access to the e-mail accounts of several members of the Bush family, including both former presidents. In one e-mail, the younger Bush solicits help with a eulogy for his father, who was thought to be on his deathbed in December, The Smoking Gun reports. In another e-mail, the younger Bush e-mails his sister self-portraits he painted of himself in the shower and in a bathtub. Read more
- See a gallery of the pictures, including W.’s self-portraits, here
TRADE DEFICIT NARROWED IN DECEMBER, COULD IMPROVE GDP. The trade deficit fell precipitously from $48.6 billion in November to $38.5 billion in December, according to Commerce Department data released today. The numbers could push estimates of U.S. fourth-quarter growth into positive territory (they are currently pegged at –0.1 percent), the Los Angeles Times reported. Overall, the trade deficit shrank 3.5 percent to $540 billion last year on falling energy imports. Read more
JESSE JACKSON JR. TAKES A PLEA. Former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., has signed a plea deal in the federal investigation into his use of campaign funds, the Chicago Sun-Times reports. Jackson has been accused of spending $40,000 in campaign contributions on a Rolex watch, among other things. Read more
COMING NEXT WEEK
STATE OF THE UNION—AND THE REBUTTAL. President Obama’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday will dominate the early part of the week. Of course, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., will try to steal some thunder in the Republican response. Rubio, who was dubbed the “Republican Savior” by Time magazine this week (Rubio’s Twitter response: “There is only one savior, and it is not me. #Jesus”) might have a tough hill to climb, as The Washington Post’s Jonathan Bernstein argues.
A COMMITTEE VOTE FOR HAGEL. The Senate Armed Services Committee could vote on the confirmation of Chuck Hagel, Obama’s nominee for secretary of Defense. Despite objections from Senate Republicans, who are demanding transcripts of Hagel’s speeches and information on his finances, the committee’s Democratic chairman has said he wants a vote as soon as possible. Read more
VAWA MAY GET A VOTE. A vote on final passage on the long-delayed Violence Against Women Act is scheduled for Monday. The act expired in 2011, but reauthorization has been stalled by disagreements between Senate Democrats and House Republicans. Efforts are expected in the House to resolve those differences. Read more
AN EMOTICON TO EXPRESS MATERNAL LOVE? Ever felt the need for an emoticon that expresses devotion? How about admiration, resignation, or contemplation? BuzzFeed caught up with Matt Jones, the artist charged by Facebook with creating faces that go way beyond the traditional repertoire of emotions. “He does simple lines for facial muscle movements, and when you look at them, you just say 'wow' because there is so much expressiveness," one collaborator said. Read more
“I’m going to try to be brief because I’ve noticed you’re on your fourth glass of water and I don’t want to be accused of waterboarding you.” —Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., at John Brennan’s confirmation hearing (BuzzFeed).
IF YOU THOUGHT PAUL RYAN’S LAST BUDGET WAS TOUGH… As a bone to conservatives last month for extending the debt ceiling, House Speaker John Boehner promised to deliver a budget that will be balanced in 10 years. But as National Journal’s Nancy Cook reports, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan may have to take extraordinary measures to do so. That includes lopping off a whopping $4 trillion in spending, which could include making even bigger cuts to Medicare than he has already proposed, as well as large cuts to education, food stamps, transportation, and housing assistance. It’s either an ingenious way to cast the GOP as the party most able to straighten America’s ledger, or a nightmare that will thwart the party’s makeover and alienate midterm voters. Read more
UP THIS WEEK
JOHN BRENNAN. The nominee for CIA director showed former Sen. Chuck Hagel how it’s done in contentious confirmation hearings: no regrets, no surrender, and in the end, no major problems. Read more
DOWN THIS WEEK
CHUCK HAGEL. Following a cringe-inducing confirmation hearing last week, the president’s nominee for Defense secretary had his committee vote delayed this week when 25 Republicans sought additional information on speeches Hagel gave and questioned any remuneration he may have received from foreign entities. The White House says Hagel has the votes for confirmation, but it’s becoming a rough ride.