Every year, interest groups and individuals lobby the White House to get their pet policy issues or coveted causes mentioned in the State of the Union address. And every year, the president, his speechwriters and policy advisers have to decide which agenda items merit a paragraph or sentence, a shout-out or some extra-special form of recognition. This year, gun-control advocates are likely to have the spotlight.
While any one line in a State of the Union speech may not seem to be a matter of critical importance, Bush’s 2003 speech — and the brouhaha that resulted from the inclusion of the now-infamous “16 words” alleging that Saddam Hussein had sought to purchase uranium from Niger — is a reminder of the consequences that even a single sentence can have.
Interest groups say they pursue a scattershot strategy as they lobby to get their issues in the speech.
“What we try to do is get our priorities in front of as many people as possible so that you start creating some kind of echo effect,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO).
Depending on the focus of the organization, the typical channels might include the Office of Public Engagement, the Domestic Policy Council or the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, as well as Cabinet secretaries and departments dedicated to specific issues, such as the Council on Environmental Quality and the Council of Economic Advisers.