Biden aides, writers to go to Camp David to work on State of the Union speech

  • In Politics
  • 2023-02-03 19:11:28Z
  • By CBS News

Senior advisers to President Joe Biden are expected to gather this weekend at Camp David to sharpen the president's State of the Union message, which will be delivered Tuesday night.

Longtime Biden aides including senior White House advisers Bruce Reed, Mike Donilon and Anita Dunn will join chief White House speechwriter Vinay Reddy. Mr. Biden is expected at Camp David Saturday evening and Sunday.

Two sources familiar with the planning tell CBS News historian and author Jon Meacham, who has served as an occasional outside adviser to Mr. Biden during the 2020 campaign and his presidency, is also heading to Camp David for speech preps.

Meacham helped craft the president's acceptance speech at the Democratic convention, his inaugural address, and the president's remarks delivered on the one year anniversary of the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

The president is known to spend several weeks planning for major addresses like the State of the Union, historically the moment a president can draw his largest television audience of the year. But he's also known to fiddle with the text up to the last possible moment.

"These types of speeches continue to evolve, sometimes until the final moments before being delivered, as you can imagine," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday.

A White House official said the president's Tuesday address, which comes at roughly the halfway point of his term, will "underscore the significant progress our nation has made during one of the most challenging periods in our history" and look ahead to the next two years.

It will touch on the economy - including Friday's better-than-expected jobs report - past legislative wins, and foreign policy challenges like Russia's war in Ukraine and competition with China. "The president will once again amplify his belief that Democrats and Republicans can work together," the official said. Biden now faces a divided Congress, with Republicans holding a narrow majority in the House.

Mr. Biden is also likely to raise more urgent concerns, including calls for police reform in the wake of the beating death of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, and immigration reform and border security, a top concern of House Republicans. Nichols' parents will attend the speech as guests of Rep. Steven Horsford, Democrat of Nevada, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Meacham, a former editor of Newsweek, has written more than a dozen books, most with a focus on American presidents. He is a professor at Vanderbilt University.

In a 2021 interview with CBS News, Meacham called the president "a friend" who "asked me for some help on speeches, and I've been happy to do that."

This October, Mr. Biden recalled asking his brother James Biden to figure out which paintings, busts and other decorations would adorn the Oval Office once his brother officially took office. James Biden turned to Meacham for the design.

"He came and worked out what my office would look like - the Oval," Biden said, adding that Meacham is "a really serious guy, a good guy."

Meacham's choices included paintings of George Washington, Franklin Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln.

"And then I said, 'Why Lincoln?,'" Biden said, rehashing the conversation. "He said, 'Because the nation has never been as divided since the Civil War.'"

In early November, as Mr. Biden boarded Air Force Once, he was spotted carrying a Meacham book on Abraham Lincoln, "And There Was Light."

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