Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Today's State of the SOTU

Okay, fellow junkies, speech day has arrived.  We'll do our best to make your last pre-fix a good a one.
  • What happens when word nerds go high tech? You get a State of the Union word cloud, naturally.  The Daily Beast did us the favor of analyzing the language of the top 20 SOTUs, using a program called Wordle, as a way to chart and analyze the dominant historical themes of the past century.  If you're not familiar with the cloud concept, the Beast explains thusly: "Word clouds take a chunk of text—in this case State of the Union addresses—and magnify the most-used words while minimizing the least used, providing, quite literally, a new way to look at the State of the Union address" 
  • Speaking of text and tech, the social media mavens over at Mashable provide a guide to watching the SOTU online. Why opt for the Web watching over TV?   "[O]nline viewing might give you a more interesting and informative experience than TV viewing alone," Mashable explains.  "For example, there’s the White House’s official portal, which delivers a unique and media-rich experience. With WhiteHouse.gov’s official 'enhanced viewing experience,' you’ll be able to see data displayed on charts and graphs as the President speaks. For those who favor commentary, PBS’s NewsHour is hosting an Annotated State of the Union in partnership with UStream (here’s an example from 2010). This interactive feature will bring 'analysis during and after the president’s address by NewsHour correspondents and experts on a variety of topics.' NewsHour’s UStream video will also be embeddable."
  • Once you've settled on where to watch, what should you be watching for?  The New York Times Caucus blog posted a fairly thorough viewing guide today that is suitable for junkies and casual followers alike.  Number one on the list: the looming clash on spending.  "Mr. Obama’s aides have hinted for days that the president will call for a new wave of investment to spur job growth and keep the country competitive with its global competitors. But how much spending? And on what? How will he make the case in the face of Republican opposition to what they view as moving in exactly the wrong direction. Among the unknowns Tuesday night is whether Mr. Obama will endorse specific provisions of his commission to reduce the nation’s debt, and how much he will say about the need to confront reform of Social Security and Medicare. Doing neither will invite criticism of his commitment to the country’s long-term fiscal health."
  • If you don't know much about this year's Republican responder, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, check out this stage-setting piece on The Hill website.  It charts the young Budget Committee chairman's rapid rise to Beltway fame, explores the potential impact of his debut on the national stage tonight, and surveys a few political experts on how Ryan can avoid the pitfalls of past SOTU follow-uppers.  The consensus take: "Stick with broad themes; don’t be negative; and smile and look like Ronald Reagan."
  • If you can't get enough of the SOTU seating stories, today's Washington Post is (ahem) overcrowded with them.  There's a handy guide to the most interesting bipartisan odd couples; leading the pairing pack are Senators John Thune (R-SD) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), the dashing duo that some have already dubbed SOTU prom king and queen.  There's also a primer on the honored guests who are likely to get presidential shoutouts in tonight's speech.  Lastly, there's the latest scuttlebut about the possibility of several Supreme Court justices skipping this year's address, which is putting a partisan damper on the bipartisan momentum of the moment.
  • With this being the Super Bowl of speechwriting, we could not help but take note of (and some pride in) today's news that our friend Andrei Cherny has been named head of the Arizona Democratic Party.  Cherny, a former White House speechwriter, ran unsuccessfully for state treasurer last fall but impressed many with his idea-driven campaign.

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