Jan 25

Past Event

State of the Union 2012: Politics and Policy

Event Materials



  • Exports, Energy and Infrastructure

    Robert Puentes: The President’s spoke about exports, energy and infrastructure noting that bolstering our efforts in each of these areas is an economic imperative.

    Robert Puentes

  • Fairness in American Society

    Pietro S. Nivola: In what was a persuasive speech, the President expressed his concern about fairness in American society.

    Pietro S. Nivola

  • Obama's Choice of Economic Issues

    William A. Galston: The election is going to be about the economy but the President differs with Republicans on what our economic problems really are.

    William A. Galston

  • Lacking Economic Plan

    Karen Dynan: The President’s address laid out a lot of proposals but didn’t provide us with a clear plan for dealing with our economic woes.

    Karen Dynan

  • Restoring Manufacturing

    Elisabeth Jacobs: President Obama spoke emphatically about restoring the nation’s manufacturing prowess, but what he didn’t say is that the type of manufacturing base that he wants to develop won’t create a whole lot of jobs.

    Elisabeth Jacobs

  • Right Tone for the Year Ahead

    Eswar Prasad: Despite the host of challenges that he has to contend with, the President’s speech largely hit the right points and set the right tone for the year ahead.

    Eswar Prasad

  • Strategy for Debt and Deficit

    Thomas E. Mann: The President needs to be really strategic about his plans for managing our debt and deficit, otherwise these issues could take a toll on his election aspirations.

    Thomas E. Mann

  • Retaining U.S. Leadership Role

    Martin S. Indyk: President Obama sent a message to Republicans that he’s going to ensure that America will continue to play a leading role in geopolitical affairs.

    Martin S. Indyk

Full Event


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On January 25 – the day after President Obama delivered his State of the Union address before a polarized Congress – Brookings hosted a discussion exploring how the president’s speech could impact critical policy challenges facing the nation during this contentious presidential election year. The first panel, moderated by Senior Fellow Thomas Mann, examined a range of domestic and global issues; participants included Karen Dynan, Martin Indyk, Eswar Prasad and Robert Puentes.

The panelists agreed the president's speech focused on domestic economic policy, and specifically on proposals to spur sustainable economic growth. Karen Dynan said the speech offered a laundry list of policy options, but that it lacked a clear narrative on how to "address our labor market problems in the short term and our budget deficit in the long term."

Thomas Mann noted the political challenges of deficit reduction. "Leading with his chin on a broad plan for deficit reduction in the face of Republican tax proposals that would dramatically cut taxes would set him up politically to lose the election," Mann said.

To achieve the president’s goals on exports, manufacturing, infrastructure and energy, Robert Puentes cited the need to harness energy at the state and metropolitan levels. "We need to go to the heart of the American economy—the states and metros—to capture their innovation and momentum," said Puentes.

Addressing global economic and trade issues, Eswar Prasad said the president’s speech made very clear the U.S. will not tolerate unfair competition from other countries, with China being the primary competitor. "It’s going to be important to be very tough on China," said Prasad.

Martin Indyk said President Obama was tough and clear on Iran, but that the United States is in a very tense and dangerous period. "In an extreme scenario, the president could well order a military strike," Indyk said. "In order to try to prevent that from happening, the president is focused on trying to get the international community behind these very strong, crippling sanctions."

During the second panel, William Galston, Elisabeth Jacobs and Pietro Nivola put the speech into the context of the 2012 election and examined how growing mistrust of government may shape the presidential campaign.

"The President eloquently invoked the ideology of fairness, solidarity, collective action and common purpose," said William Galston. "But given the pervasive mistrust of government today, it’s unclear what will happen when these themes run up against the individualist and libertarian values espoused by many independent voters."

This event was live tweeted using the hashtag #BISOTU.

Event Agenda


January 25, 2012

10:30 AM - 12:30 PM EST

The Brookings Institution

Falk Auditorium

1775 Massachusetts Ave., NW


For More Information

Brookings Office of Communications

(202) 797-6105