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Live commentary: State of the Union viewers guide

February 12, 2013|By Jon Healey

The Interwebs have been full of leaks and guesswork about what President Obama will say Tuesday in the opening State of the Union address of his second term. The biggest leak: The president will announce plans to withdraw half of the U.S. troop contingent in Afghanistan in the coming year. That may or may not conflict with calls from the Pentagon to keep the force pretty much intact through September; the official line is that Obama's position syncs with the advice of his commanders.

Other, more speculative pieces say Obama will focus on creating jobs, striking a compromise on the budget, addressing climate change, deterring gun violence and reforming immigration laws.

Chances are that the speech will include all of the above. These addresses amount to an executive summary of a president's governing ambitions, offering a largely detail-free outline of just about everything the chief executive wants to do.

QUIZ: How much do you know about the State of the Union?

A host of writers from The Times' Opinion section will be tweeting their reactions to the speech, and we'll run a live stream of those comments below. They're sure to have plenty to say about the pros and cons of Obama's policy initiatives, as well as the effectiveness (or tone-deafness) of his rhetoric.

My own suggestion is that you keep an eye on the bigger picture. Here are three things to look for:

• Will the president offer any new concessions to Republicans on fiscal issues, or simply urge them to accept his "balanced" approach to a big, multi-year deal? The pre-speech rhetoric from Democrats suggests that Obama will talk up the prospects for a bipartisan deal, but it'll be one based on the same elements he's been suggesting since mid-2011.

• With budget cuts coming to the Pentagon, what will be the U.S. role in overseas conflicts against terrorism and repressive regimes? If the withdrawal from Afghanistan means it's time for the United States to do more nation-building at home, as Obama is fond of saying, how will the government decide which battles around the world merit the use of U.S. military power?

• How often will Obama threaten to use the powers of his office to advance policy goals when Congress won't play ball? Just as liberals complained about President George W. Bush wielding too much power in the Oval Office, conservatives accuse Obama of overstepping his constitutional boundaries. In Tuesday night's speech, the president is likely to lay out some of his plans to take matters into his own hands in the face of congressional inaction, sending lawmakers a message that they can't block his agenda just by obstructing bills.

The address is scheduled for 6 p.m. PST, so be sure to come back to this page then for the live tweets.

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Follow Jon Healey on Twitter @jcahealey

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