By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers
We just got a briefing on what President Obama plans to say in his first address to Congress tonight. "Tonight, he wants to be like the doctor helping to diagnose and then heal a sick patient," said a congressional official who joined others in a briefing from White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. "They want to tie together everything they've laid out over the past few weeks and make the case to America that, 'We're on the ball,'" said the official.
Including applause, Obama plans to talk for 50-60 minutes, the typical length for a State of the Union address, although it's not called that because Obama hasn't been in office long enough to size up the state of the union. As of 4:28 p.m., Obama was still working on his address with his speechwriters, but it generally has four sections.
First, he plans to focus on the nation's fiscal health. Here, he will provide his theme to fixing the nation. Second, he will talk about the recovery plan that includes the stimulus package, his housing plan and the bank and auto bailouts. Third, he will discuss his fiscal 2010 budget that will begin to arrive on Capitol Hill Wednesday. In it, he is expected to ax some obsolete programs and propose tax increases. And finally, he will discuss U.S. foreign policy in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and Iraq. "He wants a regional approach to those areas and he'll make the case for it," said the official. And specifically on Iraq, he will shoot down suggestions that he has already approved force levels—essentially a commitment to bringing home the troops. "He hasn't made those decisions yet and he will say so," said the official.
Meanwhile, the White House just released an excerpt from his speech:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 24, 2009
But while our economy may be weakened and our confidence shaken; though we are living through difficult and uncertain times, tonight I want every American to know this: We will rebuild, we will recover, and the United States of America will emerge stronger than before.
The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don't lie beyond our reach. They exist in our laboratories and universities; in our fields and our factories; in the imaginations of our entrepreneurs and the pride of the hardest-working people on Earth. Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.