James M. Lindsay

The Water's Edge

Lindsay analyzes the politics shaping U.S. foreign policy and the sustainability of American power.

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The World Next Week: Obama’s State of the Union

by James M. Lindsay
January 19, 2012

President Obama speaks during last year's State of the Union address in January, 2011 (Jim Young/courtesy Reuters). President Obama speaks during last year's State of the Union address in January, 2011 (Jim Young/courtesy Reuters).


The World Next Week podcast is upBob McMahon and I discussed President Obama’s State of the Union address next Tuesday; the growing debate over cuts to U.S. defense spending; the GOP primary in South Carolina on Saturday; and the upcoming World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

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The highlights:

  • The State of the Union address is always a political event, and never more so than when it’s a presidential election year. President Obama is likely to use next Tuesday night’s address to claim credit for the progress his administration has made while recognizing that much more remains to be done. In doing so, look for the speech to focus primarily on the economy and jobs. The most likely foreign policy topics to get discussed are Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
  • Divisions are deepening in an already hyper-partisan environment in Washington over defense spending. The White House recently released “strategic guidance” for a defense strategy that “supports the national security imperative of deficit reduction through a lower level of defense spending.” Republicans are firing back that President Obama will cut military spending too sharply, thereby putting America’s security at risk. Lost in the debate over how much the country spends on defense are the more important questions of what the country gets for what it pays and whether what we buy is well-suited to what we are seeking to accomplish overseas.
  • Saturday’s South Carolina primary is shaping up to be the make-or-break moment for the anti-Mitt Romney forces in the GOP. Texas Governor Rick Perry dropped out of the race today and threw his support to Newt Gingrich. If the former speaker can parlay this endorsement into an upset win, he will change the dynamic of the race. But if Governor Romney translates his lead in the polls into a victory on Saturday, the media narrative will likely change from “Romney-the-GOP-frontrunner” to “Romney-the-presumptive-nominee.”
  • Government leaders, business titans, media royalty, and other VIPs will begin to gather this weekend in Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum’s flagship meeting. The theme for this year’s gathering is “The Great Transformation.” While the meeting participants are inside thrashing out what that means, Occupy Davos protesters will be outside in igloos.
  • Bob’s Figure of the Week is 700,000. My Figure of the Week is Michael McFaul. Listen to the podcast to find out why.

The Washington Post writes that Obama faces a sharply divided electorate as he prepares his State of the Union address, and the San Francisco Chronicle reports on Obama’s plans for a five-city tour after the speech. Politico says the defense budget may soon face its first real cuts since the early 1990s, and the New York Times investigates the impact of defense cuts on scientific innovation. CBS News asks what South Carolina voters really want, and Reuters discusses the ramifications of the split military vote in the state. CNN describes the daunting agenda for the upcoming World Economic Forum, and Reuters reports on how Occupy protesters are getting ready for the event.


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