'State of the Union': Neil Cavuto and FBN Try to Make Sense of the Dollars
On Tuesday, Jan. 25, President Barack Obama (left) makes his second appearance before Congress to deliver his Constitutionally required State of the Union address -- click here for his first one last year -- and things will look a little different.
First, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will not be sitting in back of him. Instead, as a result of a large changeover of seats in the House of Representatives last November, joining Vice President Biden above the Chief Executive will be new Speaker of the House John Boehner (R.-Ohio).
So, wags can go from counting Pelosi's eyeblinks to speculating on how the TV lighting will interact with Boehner's legendary tan.
Second, after an uncomfortable moment last time when some interpreted a comment by the president as a rebuke to the Supreme Court justices seated in front of him ("some" included Justice Samuel Alito, who looked very unhappy), not all of the black-robed legal eagles may attend.
Third, in a gesture meant to emphasize civility but which is winding up looking like a mad scramble for New Year's Eve dates, the traditional seating plan of the House -- with largely Democrats on one side and GOP on the other -- may be upended as lawmakers from both parties seek members of the other party to be their seatmates in a big bipartisan mash-up.
(Not everyone's going along, so we could witness the biggest game of musical chairs ever seen on C-SPAN.)
But with the current economic woes across the country -- t he Dow's going up but jobs lag behind -- nattering on about who's sitting with whom seems a bit silly.
"We make a bigger deal over theater than what it actually going to happen," says Neil Cavuto (right), who is anchoring Fox Business Network's (FBN) coverage of the State of the Union address, starting at 8:55 p.m. ET. "They make a big deal of whether Republican Sen. Coburn is going to sit next to Democratic Sen. Schumer. I guess there is some curiosity factor in that.
"I'm more interested in what the president is going to spell out and what the Republicans' response will be, than where people are sitting, because that's just theater.
"We got into a lot of this, sadly, after Congresswoman Giffords' shooting. We made a big issue about the tone, etc., of the debate, and I think we lost sight of the underlying issues that were galvanizing the country.
"I don't think you can nicely say, 'Hey, we're knee-deep in some smelly stuff here.' You can find all the political niceties and the politically correct ways to say it, whether you're on the left or the right, but the reality is, I don't think there is a nice way to say, 'We're sitting on a pile of you-know-what.'"
In ye olden days of TV, viewers could only watch the State of the Union (SOTU) speech on the three broadcast networks and PBS, but in the cable age, they can toss in C-SPAN and all the cable-news networks. One result of that is that different networks can focus on different aspects.
(Click here for a rundown of the networks' plans, including the lineup at MSNBC, which is suddenly down one primetime anchor.)
For FBN, for example, that means looking at the SOTU -- and the Republican response, this time coming from Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin -- from a more fiscal than political standpoint.
Joining Cavuto -- who, in addition to his role at the helm of FBN, continues to do the weekday "Your World With Neil Cavuto" show on Fox News Channel (FNC) -- will be FBN Washington correspondents Peter Barnes (left) and Rich Edson.
"I just like to have Peter around," quips Cavuto, "because, A, he's a genius, and B, he's a very handsome man. He has a chin you could hang clothes on. I just like having him there. He shows me what the potential is for the chin, if I could ever find mine."
There will also be economists, business experts and, yes, politicians.
"They come in and out for the State of the Union," says Cavuto. "Rep. Kristi Noem (of South Dakota) is a rising star among Republicans, and has been appointed to a leadership position in the House, so she'll be with us. And we've got Sen. Mark Udall, the Democratic Senator from Colorado. I've never booked a Republican without a Democrat, or a Democrat with a Republican, a bull without a bear.
"There are some big corporate types who will weigh in on what this means to them, and a roundtable of CEOs who will weigh in on anything the president says, or the Republicans, that will influence their hiring."
After the SOTU at 11 p.m. ET, FBN host John Stossel (below) offers a special live edition of his "Stossel" show, which explores the libertarian response to the big speech. Stossel will also be giving his own SOTU, and helping him analyze the night's events are Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), David Boaz of the Cato Institute, FBN's Judge Andrew Napolitano and a studio audience chosen on a first-come, first-serve basis.
"Stossel's very good at cutting through a lot of the gobbledygook," says Cavuto. "He'll replay some of what the president said, and what the Republicans said, and then get people's reactions of what they understood from that."
Obviously the president will discuss economic challenges and foreign policy in the SOTU, but Cavuto feels he also must talk about the Democrats' massive health-care overhaul -- the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, a k a the PPACA or "ObamaCare" -- which was the subject of a recent successful repeal vote in the now-GOP-dominated House. The repeal effort may then move to the Senate.
Pundits have declared it has no hope of passage there, but with several Democratic senators who voted for the PPACA facing re-election in 2012, you never know.
"You could see a Senate vote for this," Cavuto says, "not in numbers that would override a likely presidential veto, but nevertheless, it would be a very powerful statement.
"It would be a reminder that now you have the House and potentially the Senate telling the president, and saying to the healthcare backers period, 'The way it is written, the way it is right now, it ain't going to fly.'
"So at the very least, it's a very shrewd negotiating tactic to get these things corrected."
Regarding what the president might say on the topic, Cavuto says, "He's got to address it, and he's got to show a willingness to compromise at least on some of the onerous provisions. I don't think he'll go so far as to say, 'Yeah, you're right, we'll repeal it,' but I do think he's taken a big step toward extending the olive branch."
As for his own role in all this, Cavuto says, "If I hold both parties' feet to the fire, I'm doing my job. I have no agenda in this; it's just the people's money."
UPDATE: Click here for a story at Zap2it's Pop2it.com about how Cavuto manages life and work with MS.