Amidst all the irrelevancies of the Republican presidential candidates' debates, the president can easily distinguish himself as our nation's leader.
Without trying to wordsmith his address, I would like to strongly suggest several elements that he might not otherwise include.
Near the beginning of his speech, and as the first proposed initiative for the Congress, the president should pick up on his criticism of Citizens United from the last State of the Union, reference how it is already playing havoc with the Republican nominating process regardless of its ultimate outcome, mention that the Republican candidates have all criticized SuperPacs, and urge Congress to pass a Constitutional amendment that states that money is not speech and that corporations are not people. He should acknowledge that it would not affect the 2012 election, but that Congress should not wait to pass it and send it on to the states for ratification.
The president should tell us, as is true, that the state of the nation in 2012 is "better" than it was when he took office, when Osama bin Laden still threatened us, when people were being dropped from their healthcare coverage at the whim of insurance companies, when we were losing 800,000 jobs per month, and when the American auto industry was about to fold. "Better, but still a long way to go".
He ought not be shy about noting the killing of Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki and other al-Qaeda leaders and reiterate that one of his first directives as president was to focus the nation's efforts on our national security by bringing to justice those who were responsible for 9/11, and were plotting further cowardly strikes against us.
The president should look the American people and the Congress in the eye on the Affordable Healthcare Act and indicate what it is already doing to improve the lives of the American people. It would be fitting if one of his "guests" in the balcony with the First Lady is a person whose life was saved by the provisions of the act that are already bringing hope to millions of Americans. He ought to emphasize that everyone who had medical insurance and liked what they had has been able to keep it, and to ask the American people if they really want to return to the days when children up to 26 were not included on their policies, when insurance companies could drop coverage when they became ill, when these same companies had no requirement to spend their premiums on their healthcare, when one could be rejected for prior illnesses, and have their healthcare coverage subject to a lifetime cap, and so forth. "I have always said, and I continue to say, that I am open to any changes or additions to the Affordable Healthcare Act that preserves protections, guarantees coverage to the same number of people, and has cost-saving measures embedded into it. Despite all the sweet assurances prior to the last Congressional elections, no replacement proposal has been offered. All we have seen is a bill that passed the House to change Medicare from a guaranteed benefit that people have paid into all their lives and upon which they depend to a voucher program that guarantees our seniors nothing but a contribution to private insurance". The president ought to restate that he believes access to good, affordable healthcare is a right of every person, not a privilege of wealth.
Finally, the president ought to salute those states in which ordinary people have banded together to preserve the rights that workers fought so hard to achieve more than a half-century ago, and to remind the American people that no nation is strong without a strong, healthy middle class. He should call on the American people to exert similar pressures on Congress to overcome the special interests that block progress.
The major thrust of the State of the Union, of course, needs to be about jobs and the economy. The above are suggestions about key elements the president ought to add.
It is his major opportunity to set himself apart from the idiocy of the rightwing that has been polluting our airwaves and impinging on our consciousness.
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