State of the Union Address Tonight

January 24, 2012 By Mac Stoddard

The President will give his State of the Union address tonight at 9 p.m., and two hours earlier, Bill Gates will release his annual letter from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  A preview released this morning quotes him as saying, “The relatively small amount of money invested in development has changed the future prospects of billions of people – and it can do the same for billions more – if we make the choice to continue investing in innovation.”  The letter will be posted at 7 p.m. here:

Must Reads

Who’s in the News

Names: Miller, Kendall, Conaton move up at the Pentagon (Josh Rogin, The Cable)

President Barack Obama announced his choices for several senior national security positions late Monday, all of which are promotions for officials already serving inside the administration.  Jim Miller will be nominated to succeed Michele Flournoy as undersecretary of defense for policy. . . Other State Department nominees named today include Scott DeLisi as ambassador to Uganda, Tracey Ann Jacobson as ambassador to the Republic of Kosovo, Pamela Ann White as ambassador to Haiti, and Linda Thomas-Greenfield as director general of the Foreign Service.

The Obama Memos (Ryan Lizza, New Yorker)

In May, 2009, Obama’s advisers informed him that his budget for global health assistance would increase by a hundred and sixty-five million dollars yet would still face “opposition from the very vocal HIV/AIDS activist community.” He wrote back, “How can they complain when we are increasing funding?” One Cabinet official made it clear that she did not share the President’s growing commitment to coupon-clipping: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She rejected the White House’s budget for her department, and wrote the President a six-page letter detailing her complaints. Some in the White House saw the long letter as a weapon, something that could be leaked if Clinton didn’t get her way. “I want to emphasize that I fully understand the economic realities within which this budget is being constructed, and I share your commitment to fiscal responsibility. But I am deeply concerned about these funding levels.” The letter contained indications of a real relationship between the former rivals. “You and I often speak about the need to restore the capacity of civilian agencies,” Clinton noted. It ended with an urgent plea for Obama to intervene on her behalf. Obama did indeed fight for some additional money for Clinton.

Smart Power

Now is not the time to balance our budget on the backs of the world’s poorest (The ONE Campaign International)

Extreme poverty, the kind that deprives hard working people of their full potential, is an immediate reality for many. It is a real thing, gripping the lives of billions of people. The number is so massive that, for most of us, it loses meaning. Truth is, these are billions of individual human beings with their own unique hopes and aspirations, no different from you or I.  With this in mind, last week over 600 members of Engineers Without Borders Canada (EWB) took to the streets of Canada’s capital city Ottawa, braving the snow and freezing temperatures, to send a clear message to the Government of Canada: let’s not turn our backs on the world’s poorest by cutting foreign aid spending.

DC Entertainment Teams With Aid Groups to Raise $2 Million-Plus, Awareness for Hunger Crisis in Africa (Georg Szalai, The Hollywood Reporter)

Time Warner said Monday it has partnered with aid organizations to combat the hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa with the help of DC Entertainment superheroes and the slogan “We Can Be Heroes.”  TW chairman and CEO Jeffrey Bewkes promised at a press event at the entertainment conglomerate’s headquarters here a “very forceful, multifaceted campaign” that will take advantage of all company units, including their story telling, brand and marketing capabilities, as well as their global reach, to raise awareness and funds as social responsibility “is in the DNA of the company.”

Politics/Foreign Policy

Grading Obama’s Foreign Policy (Foreign Policy)

Eight experts rate President Obama’s foreign policy.  Robert Kagan, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Joseph Cirincione, Danielle Pletka, Aaron David Miller, Ted Galen Carpenter, Jamie Fly, and Heather Hulrbert each analyze Obama’s successes and failures through the first 3 years of his Presidency.  As many of the experts noted, the jury is still out on many of the most important issues of the day, including Iran, North Korea, and the eventual outcome of the Arab Spring.

Chaotic Start to Egypt’s First Democratically Elected Parliament (David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times)

As Egypt’s first freely elected Parliament in six decades held its opening session on Monday, the Muslim Brotherhood received a lesson in the unwieldiness of democracy when a dispute over choosing a speaker degenerated into a shouting match that overshadowed the day.  It took until nightfall for the Muslim Brotherhood to decisively beat back the challenge to its choice of Saad el-Katatni, a Brotherhood stalwart, by a vote of nearly 400 to fewer than 100.  In a weary speech after his election late Monday night, Mr. Katatni said the differences of opinion expressed over his selection were democracy in action. “This is democracy that had left this hall for years, and now the people have grasped it,” he said.