THE BIG QUESTION for Feb. 24: Obama’s Speech to Congress

The Big Question is a feature where influential lawmakers, pundits and interest group leaders give their answers to a question that’s driving discussion in news circles around the country.

Some responses are gathered via e-mail, while others are gathered in person via tape recorder.

Today’s Big Question is:

What’s the most important thing President Obama can say tonight in his address to Congress?

See responses below from Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.), Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), John Zogby, William Redpath, John Sweeney, Dr. Herbert London, Dean Baker, Andy Roth, Dr. Larry J. Sabato, Bertha Lewis, Paul Strauss, and John Castellani.

Read the previous Big Question here.

Senator Kit Bond (R-Mo.), said:

Despite the promises from President Obama and his Democratic Congress there is still uncertainty in the markets and fear in our communities – will our economy recover and how do we get there?

Tonight, I hope Obama gives Americans real answers. Read the full response here.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said:

I would hope tonight that the president could give a frank assessment of the economy. But also, some hope and optimism for the future based on the steps that have been taken with TARP and the stimulus package. I think increasing the confidence of the American people in the President is critical. Read the full response here.

William Redpath, Libertarian National Committee Chair, said:

He should clearly state that it is time for Congress to stop ducking the question of entitlement reform, and that he is going to immediately address the issue head on.

John Zogby, president/CEO of Zogby International, said:

The President should say: “I have spent a lot of time defining for you the seriousness of the problems we face. I want to assure you that I understand how much you already get. You are living it in so many ways. Tonight I need to assure you that we here in this room get…” Read the full response here.

John Sweeney, President of the AFL-CIO, said:

America’s working men and women were struggling long before banks and investment houses started folding on Wall Street. Working people will be listening tonight for President Obama to make crystal clear that as we rebuild our nation’s economy, we will build it in a way that will work for everyone in the short and the long term. Read the full response here.

Herbert London, president of Hudson Institute, said:

If I were President Obama I would try to calm the raging concern about the state of the economy. Instead of discussing a “potential catastrophe,” I think he should emphasize the ability of Americans to rise to the occasion in the face of difficulty. Read the full response here.

Dr. Larry J. Sabato, Director at the Center for Politics, said:

The President needs to accomplish twin, related goals. He must explain how the complicated pieces of his agenda—the stimulus, the housing package, the back rescue plan, and the big policy goals for health care, energy, and education—all fit together to produce economic recovery. Read the full response here.

Dean Baker, Co-Director at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, said:

President Obama should reassure seniors and older baby boomers that their Social Security is secure.

The loss of $8 trillion with the collapse of the housing bubble and another $7 trillion with the stock market plunge was the largest redistribution from older generations to younger ones in the history of the world. Read the full response here.

Bertha Lewis, CEO and Chief Organizer, ACORN, said:

The most important thing President Obama can say tonight is to emphasize that we are all in this together. From Americans suffering job losses, to those sacrificing hours so their employer can survive, to those who have lost or our losing their homes, this economic crisis is being felt in every corner of the country. Read the full response here.

Andy Roth, Vice President of Government Affairs at the Club for Growth, said:

President Obama needs to provide certainty to the stock market. He needs to say with unwavering confidence that the government won’t go down the path of bank nationalization. So far, the vagueness coming from Washington regarding its plans on the banking industry is pushing money to the sidelines. Read the full response here.

John Castellani, president, Business Roundtable, said:

While job creation and restoring our economy to a path for growth are our foremost priorities right now, the President must look toward the horizon and a renewed, stronger America. From energy and the environment to health care, education and international trade, there are a host of pressing issues that must be addressed if the seeds sown by the economic stimulus are to take root and help grow our economy in the long-term. Read the full response here.

Paul Strauss, District of Columbia Senior Shadow Senator, (D) said:

I think he should talk about the step forward we took today, but I expect he’s got alot to say about the economy also.

Obtained in-person via audio recorder.

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