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State of the Union will not be typical, White House says

President Obama's State of the Union address will be different from what the annual speech usually offers, avoiding a 'laundry list' of proposals, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says. Guests in the House gallery will include survivors and relatives of victims of the Jan. 8 Tucson shootings.

January 24, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli, Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — The White House said Monday that President Obama's State of the Union address will take a different course than the annual speech typically follows, eschewing a "laundry list" of proposals for Congress to consider but offering a broad outline of how to tackle the nation's economic challenges.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs avoided offering specifics about the speech at his daily briefing, preferring to leave that job to Obama on Tuesday night. He did say that any decisions about policy planks of the speech "have well been made" already and that Obama will continue making revisions of his remarks, as is his custom, "well into early tomorrow evening."

He also confirmed some of the guests who will sit with the first lady in the House gallery, including Daniel Hernandez, the intern for U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) credited with helping save her life after she was shot in the head in Tucson on Jan. 8; the family of Christina Taylor Green, one of six who died in the rampage; and Dr. Peter Rhee of University Medical Center, part of the medical team that treated Giffords.

In the wake of that tragedy, Obama will reflect on the nation's political discourse, echoing his address in Tucson and other previous remarks in calling on lawmakers "to have a debate that is appropriate to the size of the challenges that we face in this country."

Beyond that, Gibbs said little beyond what Obama previously offered to supporters in a video message this weekend.

The president will "spend most of his time talking about the economy, talking about the challenges that we face, both in the short term … and the medium and long term to continue working on issues like competitiveness and innovation," Gibbs said.

Asked if this speech would go beyond what the joint-session address typically offered, Gibbs replied, ""I think that's probably accurate.

"I don't think you'll see a laundry list of issues. I don't think this is intended to be a speech that is one where you spend big chunks of time walking through the specific machinations," he said.

The speech is seen as another critical point for Obama following what he described as the "shellacking" the Democratic Party suffered at the hands of voters in November. A retooling of his staff, Gibbs said, provides new leadership in the West Wing to help Obama work with Congress on solutions to the nation's challenges.

But he also denied any major ideological shift on the president's part.

"The president's still the same president that we've had for more than two years," he said.

mmemoli@tribune.com

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