George Stephanopoulos allowed Barck Obama to have it both ways on Tuesday. The Good Morning America co-host explained what the State of the Union address would really be about. First, he parroted that the White House "promises a focus on the economy." He then added, "The audience will be packed with victims of gun violence and advocates of gun rights...This has set up an interesting dynamic. Most of the words will be about jobs. But most of the emotion will be around guns." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Reporter Jon Karl agreed this was a "good way to look at" the speech. He explained that "there will be victims of gun violence throughout the visitors' gallery, including in the First Lady's box. You will have somebody tied to the Newtown massacre." Karl went on to highlight that "many" members of Congress will be giving their one visitor ticket to "the victims of gun violence." Like Stephanopoulos, he assured, "But the message here is all about the economy. The White House says that that is the message here." Left unmentioned was any discussion of the fact that unemployment was 7.8 percent in January 2009 and 7.9 percent in January 2013.
The American Enterprise's Jim Pethokoukis explained why Obama might want to have some focus be on issues such as guns, rather than strictly on unemployment:
President Obama mentioned "jobs" only three times in his recent inaugural address, "workers" one time, and "unemployment" zippo. The January jobs report provides a sober reminder that the US labor market, while recovering, remains extraordinarily weak. The official unemployment rate ticked up to 7.9% as 157,000 net new jobs were created, according to the Labor Department.
To provide some context, recall that back in January 2009 Team Obama economists Jared Bernstein and Christina Romer predicted the unemployment rate by 2013 would be closing in on 5%. (Of course, Obama’s economists also thought we’d be in a mini-boom of 4%-plus economic growth. That hasn’t happened either.) Oh, and at the January pace of job creation, we won’t return to pre-Great Recession employment levels until after 2025, according to the Hamilton Project’s Jobs Gap calculator.
Instead, Karl repeated, "And in a challenge to Republicans [Obama is] saying, 'we cannot cut our way to prosperity." Look for new initiatives, new spending in this speech, to stimulate economic growth." The journalist only noted that Republican Marco Rubio, when he gives the GOP response, will call for "a smaller government, maybe a more efficient government."
A transcript of the February 12 segment, which aired at 7:14am EST, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Now to Washington, where, tonight, President Obama will deliver the first State of the Union address of his second term. The White House promises a focus on the economy. The audience will be packed with victims
of gun violence and advocates of gun rights. ABC's Jon Karl will be there, too. This has set up an interesting dynamic. Most of the words will be about jobs. But most of the emotion will be around guns.
JON KARL: Yeah, that's a good way to look at this, George. Because there will be victims of gun violence throughout the visitors' gallery, including in the First Lady's box. You will have somebody tied to the Newtown massacre. But also members of Congress, who each only get one ticket to the gallery to give to a guest, usually a family member. They will be giving their tickets, many of them, to victims of gun violence. But the message here is all about the economy. The White House says that that is the message here. The President wants to drive home what has been a theme of his, which is the middle class is the driver of economic growth. And in a challenge to Republicans saying, "we cannot cut our way to prosperity," look for new initiatives, new spending in this speech, to stimulate economic growth.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the answer will come from the Republicans Senator Marco Rubio, chosen to give the official response. It will be in both English and Spanish, of course. He's a rising star, the senator from Florida.
KARL: That's right. And his speech will be entirely in English. But he is pre-taping an entire response in Spanish that will go out on the Spanish language networks. Rubio's message also, George, will also be about the economy. He is leading the charge for Republicans on immigration. That will be mentioned in the speech. But, again, his challenge will be to the President saying, we need a smaller government, maybe a more efficient government. But a smaller government.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And there will be a separate Tea Party response, also, from Senator Rand Paul. Okay, Jon Karl, thanks very much. Diane Sawyer and I will anchor ABC's coverage of the State of the Union at 9:00pm. Eastern, 6:00 Pacific.