WASHINGTON, Jan. 23
It is an extraordinary, ordinary day in American politics.
The pompiness and circumstanciness of the State of the Union are going to be a great comfort to the political-media infrastructure in which the Gang of 500 nestles, what with all the out-of-kilter, Twilight Zone phenomena taking place:
-- President Bush is fighting with House Republicans over an issue of critical importance to him (Iraq) at a time that is inconvenient for him (as the State of the Union moves to TelePrompter).
-- Speaker Pelosi is battling with her own base of House liberals (over the Pure Power of Old Bulls).
-- Rahm Emanuel is the most bipartisan person in Washington (per the Chicago Tribune's Jill Zuckman, who seems to have flipped from Hastert to Emanuel in a blink). LINK
-- Speakering of which: the sight of Pelosi sitting behind Bush during the SOTU will make our eyes bug.
-- Labor unions are opposing a government plan to expand health insurance coverage, while Grover Norquist is all for it.
-- Small-government conservative George W. Bush plans to morph into a greenbean/HillaryCare/amnesty-loving/increased-federal-role-in-education expansionist (again).
On the other hand, some things will apparently never change (and some of you will take comfort from that):
-- Sens. McCain, Clinton, and Obama will have no trouble inserting themselves into the post-SOTU speech reaction, while other 2008 candidates will struggle.
-- Television pundits such as Bill Schneider, explaining the Bush poll numbers, are saying "Iraq, Iraq, Iraq."
-- The media is obsessed with the length of the speech, the guests in the First Lady's box, and Bill Livingood's chops.
-- The media will get speech excerpts late in the day, and will once again paraphrase Ronald Reagan: "Is that all there is?"
-- Sen. Clinton refuses to say if Sen. Obama is qualified to be commander in chief.
-- We are all still getting our political news from Mike Allen, Roger Simon, Jim VandeHei, and Ben Smith (just from a different platform LINK).
Mr. Bush's annual address to the nation will occur this evening sometime after 9 pm ET just after the U.S. House Sergeant at Arms says, "Madam Speaker, the President of the United States," for the first time in this nation's history (and then after some bipartisan applause).
On the television broadcast network, Charlie Gibson will anchor ABC's coverage from Capitol Hill. He will be joined by George Stephanopoulos, Martha Raddatz, Jake Tapper, and Kate Snow in Washington and Dan Harris in Baghdad. ABC News commentator George Will, ABC News financial contributor Mellody Hobson, and ABC News consultant General Jack Keane will also contribute. Prior to tonight's address, there will be preview coverage on ABCNews.com, ABC News Now, ABC News Radio, and ABC "World News with Charles Gibson" at 6:30 pm ET.
The Democrats will respond to the President's address with newly elected Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA), the former Reagan Navy Secretary who knocked off Sen. George Allen (R-VA) in November. For the second year in a row, Democrats will offer a response to the President in Spanish. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA), who was recently named Assistant to the Speaker, will perform those duties this evening.
Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) will be interviewed on ABC News by Gibson following President Bush's address and the Democratic response.