UNT experts available to comment on State of the Union address

Friday, January 25, 2008

During his final State of the Union address on Monday (Jan. 28), President Bush will alternate between discussing a just-approved plan to pump about $150 billion into the economy this year and speaking about the apparent success of the surge in Iraq, says a University of North Texas assistant professor of political science.

Dr. Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha, who teaches a course on the presidency and researches presidential television addresses and other presidential speeches, says Bush will first formally announce the economic stimulus package that he and Congress agreed upon earlier this week in an attempt to stave off the first U.S. recession in seven years. Americans who file taxes will receive one-time tax rebates of $600 to $1,200 that are intended to be spent and jumpstart the economy.

Eshbaugh-Soha says Bush "will provide the general details for the average American and probably speak of bipartisanship and how Congress and the president can work together in the best interests of the American people."

"Presidents love to speak about bipartisanship when they can," he says.

Second, he says, Bush "will speak at length about Iraq."

"He will surely talk about more specific successes, as he claims credit for the apparent improvement in the situation on the ground due in part -- most agree -- to his policy -- the surge," Eshbaugh-Soha says. "The question is whether he will address the numerous benchmarks that have not been met by the Iraqi government. This may well be the focus of some of the commentary or even the Democratic response."

The Democratic response, he adds, may also criticize the president for getting the U.S. into a possible recession, "whether or not this recession is attributable to the president's policies."

"Naturally, there will also be a laundry list of numerous other policies, stated in brief.  He is unlikely to mention the presidential race, except in general terms and in passing," he says. "It will be interesting to hear how he sums up the state of the union. Bill Clinton often claimed, ‘The State of the Union is strong.' What will Bush's message be in the face of economic recession?"

Eshbaugh-Soha has published research in the "American Journal of Political Science," "Political Research Quarterly," "Presidential Studies Quarterly," "Policy Studies Journal," and "Congress and the Presidency," and has contributed chapters to "Politics in the American States" and "Public Opinion and Polling around the World." He is the author of  "The President's Speeches: Beyond ‘Going Public,'" which explores the impact of the president's signals on the adoption and implementation of public policy.

Eshbaugh-Soha may be reached during the day on Monday (Jan. 28) and Tuesday (Jan. 29) at his office, (940) 565-2329. He may also be reached by e-mail at mes@unt.edu.

Dr. Shaun Treat, an assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies., teaches courses on political rhetoric. He says that in Monday's speech, the president "will be especially mindful of how he would like America to judge his administration's mixed legacy."

"After last year's State of the Union address, the president left a lot of conservatives shaking their heads over Bush's waffling tone on immigration and health care," Treat says.

He points out that because these addresses are frequently used to outline the president's legislative proposals for the upcoming year, Bush's final State of the Union speech will be "a culmination of eight years of his administration's brazen efforts to shape Middle East history as well as an appeal to the American people to ready themselves for the monumental challenges ahead with both Iraq and the recession-prone economy."

"The president will likely address the struggling economy and home mortgage crisis by trumpeting his recent stimulus package proposals, while blaming the Democratic Congress for numerous bills stymied by Bush's veto threats and a Republican minority that has used the filibuster twice as much as any other time in American history," Treat says. "Questionable measures of progress in Iraq are also likely to be touted but, if his past performances are any indication, it is unlikely Bush will acknowledge thorny problems like the civil rights minefield at Guantanamo Bay or any other numerous scandals plaguing his administration."

Treat may be reached during the day at his office, (940) 565-2588, or at shauntreat@unt.edu. His biography is available at http://www.comm.unt.edu/faculty/treat_bio.htm.

UNT News Service Phone Number: (940) 565-2108