It’s a day before Obama’s first State of the Union address of his second term, and many commentators are speculating about what subjects the speech will address. With regards to international security, Obama could address topics (drones, other counterterrorism policies, nuclear weapons, etc.) or regions (the Middle East, South Asia particularly in terms of Pakistan and Afghanistan, etc.). However, it is unlikely the address will focus much on homeland security and will instead focus on job creation and the middle class. Still, there will be some room for security issues. It is possible that Obama may touch upon his visit to Israel next month and all that entails, especially considering the fact that the visit will be Obama’s first to the country as president. However, Alan Alsner blogs at the Huffington Post that the record for mentioning the Middle East in the SOTU has been weak in the past 20 years. As Elsner notes: “A look back at the past 20 State of the Union addresses, which encompass both of President Clinton’s administrations, the two George W. Bush administrations plus President Obama’s first four years, finds that the word “Israel” did not appear in 12 of those speeches.”
It looks likely that Obama will address “one of his signature national security objectives — drastically reducing nuclear arsenals around the world.” Specifics are unknown, though arms reductions may not be the only subject. According to Vice President Joe Biden, Obama may make mention of his efforts to “reduce global stockpiles and secure nuclear materials.” Otherwise, the Nuclear Threat Initiative predicts that the usual threats from Iran and North Korea will be addressed–specifically considering some reports have suggested that North Korea’s threatened nuclear test may happen during the SOTU.
From the pre-SOTU buzz, it looks unlikely that other security questions will get much of a mention, though of course, we won’t know until tomorrow. As for the SOTU in general, Julian Zelizer at CNN urges Obama to “think big” for the speech and to address not only policies but also a greater vision for his administration’s work ahead–a vision, in a sense, for the future of the Union. Andrei Cherny at Politico is a less inspirational, calling the SOTU “broken” and “a spectacle at the expense of substance.” Emi Kolawole at the Washington Post takes this idea in a different direction, arguing that the SOTU needs an overhaul. He says it could be delivered in “just about any form,” and thus challenges readers to take a stab at writing a SOTU in the form of–wait for it–a tweet.
Tweeting the SOTU probably wouldn’t help that substance problem Cherny mentioned, and it would probably still be as much of a spectacle. Still, Obama is known for being tech savvy (and tech forward). Maybe a tweeted SOTU wouldn’t be so crazy in the future. Tomorrow, however, you can tune in to the SOTU at 9pm EST.
EDIT: Here’s a list of choice SOTU quotes about nuclear weapons, courtesy of Arms Control Wonk, Michael Krepon, and Jonathon Fox.