This certainly isn't your typical State of the Union night. President Obama is speaking right on the heels of the epic final battle in Big Bear, California, between Christopher Dorner and law enforcement. Two San Bernardino County Sheriffs were shot earlier today. One died, while the other is still alive and undergoing surgery in a nearby hospital. Meanwhile, the cabin that Dorner was occupying is burning to the ground as I write. It's unclear yet whether Dorner himself is dead or alive.
Obviously, everyone will be awaiting what President Obama says on gun safety. However, that won't be the entirety of his speech. Obama will also be calling for jobs programs and more economic recovery, as well as for action on climate change and comprehensive immigration reform (CIR).
Stay tuned here for more updates on #SOTU, as well as for any new updates on the Dorner case in Southern California.
6:00 PM: Notice all the green ribbons in the House chamber? They're honoring victims of gun violence. It's especially poignant tonight considering what's still unfolding in Southern California.
6:20 PM: The President is starting with a conciliatory tone in stating his willingness to be a "partner in progress" with Congress. He's also noting recent economic improvement, as well as the end of the Iraq & Afghanistan Wars. And of course, he says the state of our union is strong.
6:22 PM: And here it is. The President is talking about "restoring the middle class. It's our task to make sire this government is working for the many... & opens the doors of opportunity to all our children." The President is hitting hard on economic justice... & hinting at his strategy to fend off threats of double dip recession.
While Obama touts recent deficit reduction, he also wants economic growth. Simply put, this is why we can't afford "The Sequester", aka Fiscal Cliff 2.0. It's imperative on Congress to stop the austerity madness.
6:27 PM: Obama is trying to thread the needle on Medicare & Social Security. He says he's open to reform, but he won't accept hurting seniors in need. Progressives will probably remain on the edge of their seats as Congress keeps wrangling over "The Sequester"... And Medicare & Social Security are still on the table.
6:29 PM: And here come taxes. Obama demands more revenue and fewer synthentic fiscal crises. Again, if we have to pursue deficit reduction, we must be careful in doing so while the economy is still in early stages of recovery. And the super-rich are the ones who can most afford to pay for it.
"Deficit reduction alone is not an economic plan."
6:33 PM: President Obama is talking about the real deficit problem we still face: the jobs deficit. He wants to continue beefing up manufacturing here in America. And he's promoting scientific research! Yes, it works. And you know what? It also helps the economy.
Again, we can't afford austerity.
6:35 PM: Yay, energy time! But boo, fossil fuels.
Oh yay, he says, "We must do more to combat climate change." So what will we do? He offers an olive branch to one-time rival John McCain on cap-and-trade. Remember when Republicans liked that?
But if Congress won't act, the President must do something. And Obama is promising that. He's offering executive action on expediting renewable energy programs, an "energy security trust", and some sort of carbon cap should Congress decline to implement a cap-and-trade system.
6:42 PM: "We can get this done". That's what President Obama said on infrastructure repair & reinvestment. That will be nice. Check out our roads, our libraries, our schools, and more. We need it. Oh, & we need jobs!
6:45 PM: "The sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road."
Ah, universal pre-school. I'm down with that... But are #NVLeg & Brian Sandoval? They've yet to agree on universal kindergarten.
But really, more education tends to mean less crime and less poverty. If we're serious about crime prevention and economic empowerment, we need to do better in supporting our schools.
6:48 PM: Obama also talks about higher education. He wants to reform the Higher Ed Act so that the feds consider affordability of colleges when determining federal funding.
6:50 PM: And now, #CIR! Obama again demands reform... Including a "responsible path to earned citizenship". He again shouts out bipartisan efforts in Congress to tackle this issue. Will they take kindly?
He's also addressing the Violence Against Women Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act, & ending the overall War on Women. See, he hasn't forgotten.
6:54 PM: Here, Obama returns to economic justice. He calls for investment in hard hit (by the recession & decades of neglect) communities. And in a surprising twist, he also calls on a raise in the federal minimum wage to $9 per hour. When was the last time we heard poverty discussed in a State of the Union speech?
7:00 PM: In the foreign policy portion, Obama talks North Korea, arms reduction, drones, bringing home 34,000 troops from Afghanistan, and continuing to support flourishing "Arab Spring" democracies.
7:07 PM: In discussing the military, Obama shouts out #DADT repeal and equal service for women. The military is (again) becoming a catalyst for civil rights.
7:10 PM: Obama also shouts out the fundamental right to vote. Remember that? And remember all those efforts to block people from voting?
7:15 PM: Obama is closing with gun safety. Obama is hitting all the major policy points: assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, gun trafficking, and background checks. He evokes Hadiya Pendleton in Chicago, along with the 20 kids of Newtown. And Gabby Giffords & Tucson.
"They deserve a simple vote. Our actions will not prevent every senseless violent act in this country... But we weren't sent here to be perfect. We were sent here to do what we can... We were sent here to look out for our fellow Americans."
And while he's speaking, Southern California is still reeling from the Christopher Dorner manhunt.
7:17 PM: Obama closed in calling for collective action. And he closed in reminding the audience of our duty to help each other. Again, he evoked economic justice. And he reiterated his drive to solve CIR, gun safety reform, climate change, and more. This was a moving speech, especially considering the saddening backdrop of tonight.