Talking to a House Divided
By Bruce Stokes, Director of Economic Attitudes, Pew Research Center
Special to Foreign Policy
Historically, State of the Union addresses are notably short on foreign-policy references (one analysis of the 2010 and 2011 speeches by Eric Ostermeier of the University of Minnesota found that international statements accounted for just 14 to 16 percent of the total number of sentences). So when President Barack Obama delivers his 2015 State of the Union tonight, no one should expect a significant focus on foreign affairs, despite the recent terrorist killings in Paris, the deepening U.S. military involvement in Syria and Iraq, and ongoing concerns over Russia’s intentions in Ukraine.
Nevertheless, what he chooses to say or not say is likely to be parsed more abroad than at home. And despite the fact that he will speak before a Congress controlled by Republicans, his speech comes amid widespread speculation abroad of new found bipartisan cooperation in Washington on a range of issues that affect U.S. relations with the rest of the world.
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