Your guide to watching Biden’s State of the Union speech : NPR
Mario Tama / Getty Images
Welcome to the new NPR series, where we highlight the people and things that are making headlines – and the stories behind them.
On the surface, the State of the Union speech acts as a presidential endorsement. But the annual coordination involves the efforts of many people, including speechwriters, who aim to communicate Oval Office priorities.
And if they’re lucky, they might land well Federation Moment ™
Who are they?
- Cody Keenan is a political consultant and former keynote speaker for Barack Obama.
- Michael Ricci is a fellow at Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service and has written speeches for Republicans such as John Boehner and Paul Ryan.
What is the big problem?
Talking points. Ricci and Keenan tell us about four things to consider from State of the Union.
- The role of the speaker “This is [difficult] for the White House speechwriters, because you have every cabinet agency, every interest group, people are pressing you to put their policy ideas into speech. And it’s tiring. And it’s the speechwriter’s job to prevent it from becoming a Christmas tree, putting something in a speech just because someone is going to get mad if you don’t, that’s not good writing. So it’s just the kind of never ending battle.”– Cody Keenan
“I’ve also had to contend with different stakeholders.[ing] to another language, to the extent to which the president puts his shoulders on the wheel in a flamboyant manner. Therefore, the chairman of the committee will [say], ‘Did the president issue a vague call to action? Did he specifically say pass this bill or bring up a home issue?’ The committee chair, the stakeholders, the followers, are obsessed with that stuff. And these are all choices that White House speechwriters have to make.”– Michael Ricci
- Who is Biden really talking to?“As he tries to draw cross-party contrasts, he will inevitably address policy issues that could work well in the suburbs. He will talk about limiting insulin costs. and the like.
There’s only so much they can do to really get Republicans in the room. So it’s largely about sidestepping the Republican heads of the room and trying to reach conscientious conservative voters with rhetoric that appeals to those in the middle.– Michael Ricci
- Speaker’s feedback
“The White House is thinking about all the different big issues on Hill. They’re mainly thinking about the things that members of Congress are obsessed with. And often it’s two to three things at once.
You prepare 12 to 15 problems. You prepare a quick response. You try to consecutively all your ducks, but in the end, you only have so much oxygen to fight the president. So from my experience I can tell you that normally you plan everything, but usually you have to reduce it to two or three things that you will hit hard on your reaction. .”
– Michael Ricci
- How many journeys to create a “big moment”
“You can create these big moments. And, you know, President Obama joked on game day that the beginning and the end of the speech were amazing. And we just said that part of it. And that’s the part where we have this lengthy list of recommendations. But the opening and the ending is really what makes for the emotional moments that people will remember. And I want to. give Biden speechwriters some cover here.There’s no clever wording or story that necessarily guarantees action or guarantees unity or cohesion. I am, it’s always an ongoing thing. No single speech can change people’s minds, but those are the moments people remember.”– Cody Keenan
So what now?
Find out more