TODAY | February 12, 2013
>> state of the union address as the president prepares to lay out the agenda for his second term tonight. chuck todd , nbc's chief white house correspondent and political director is live at the white house . chuck, good morning.
>> reporter: good morning, savannah. history indicates that second terms actually have a shelf life that are a lot less than four years. what does that mean? it means that the president's first state of the union of his second term may actually be his last best chance to motivate congress to do big things . since president obama 's second term began, he has spent much of his time in public simply selling his immigration plan and pushing for new gun control law s. leaving the issue that's dogged him for four years, jump-starting the nation's economy, on the sideline. advisers say that will change in tonight's speech.
>> an outline for him to grow jobs and the middle class .
>> reporter: echoing familiar themes from last year's campaign.
>> gold and manufacturing, education, national security and the deficit. real achievable plans that will lead to new jobs.
>> reporter: tonight's state of the union comes two weeks before a new round of budget showdowns between the president and republicans. draconian spending cuts march 1st that both sides say they want to avoid but will kick in if nothing is done and then march 31st , the government runs out of fund iing. the president, pushing for tax hikes on the wealthy. republicans insisting on major spending cuts.
>> the president will actually have to move beyond the gimmicks and the taxes and propose real spending reductions.
>> reporter: despite the economic focus, the issue of guns, especially the memory of newtown, will loom over the house chamber with lawmakers inviting guests from both sides of the gun debate, from ted nugent on one side, to several victims on the other, including gabriel giffords, who stars in this new ad.
>> take it from me. congress must act. let's get this done.
>> tonight, there will be a lot of acting cabinet secretaries in attendance, savannah. part of that reason, of course, is there are numbers of cabinet nominees who haven't gotten confirmed yet. one of those could take a large step toward confirmation. chuck hagel should get committee approval today, which means he could be confirmed by thursday.
>> valerie jarrett is senior adviser to president obama . good morning to you.
>> good morning, savannah. how are you?
>> very well, thank you. i do want to talk about the state of the union . let's start with north korea , which conducted its third and most powerful nuclear test overnight. convening an emergency meeting of the security council , the u.n. is, but what is left in the sanctions of one of the countries that is the most sanctioned and still defies?
>> it violates multiple u.n. security resolutions. it is threatening to the united states , it is destabilizing and not necessarily in the best interest of north korea . it doesn't strengthen north korea . it makes it more vulnerable, isolates it and increases the impoverishment of the country. let's not get ahead that have meeting and see what happens.
>> the president addressing the nation tonight, i want to start by reading you a quote from the president. now is the time to jump-start job creation , restart lending and invest in areas like energy, health care and education that will grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down. that is from the president's very first address to congress in 2009 . americans have heard these refrains over and over again. what can you guarantee to the american people that will turn these words into actual actions?
>> savannah, those words have already turned into actions. the last three years, we've stated over 6 million jobs in our country. last 35 months alone, we've made a great deal of progress. that will be a central theme of tonight's remarks. the president has always believed that our country is strongest when we build from the middle class out not from the top down. that was the theme of the 2008 election and certainly this last election. and those words have already turned into action and he will continue that. he will demonstrate concretely how he has to invest in manufacturing, making the united states a magnet for job growth , preparing our workforce, making sure that if you work hard that you can earn a good living. and he will lay out very specifically how we want to accomplish that.
>> let me turn to a more immediate crisis. in a few weeks, these automatic spending cuts known as the sequester will go into effect. this is something that both sides have said will be massively destructive to our economy. my question to you is whet when is the last time the president sat down with congressional leaders to try to work out some kind of compromise to avoid this?
>> well, as you saw the end of last year, we made a great deal of progress. we were so close, savannah. the president and speaker boehner were just moments apart in reach iing a deal. unfortunately, the republicans were unwilling to do the deal we proposed. the president proposed a balanced approach, one that includes both spending cuts as well as rate increases.
>> have there been any recent meetings along those lines?
>> there haven't. the issue of the end of the last year and over the last few weeks we've been preparing and gearing up. the president has made it clear numerous times to sit down with the republicans in congress and work out a deal. he has presented a range of options for how we can get our fiscal house in order. he is looking for a big deal . if we can't get a big deal let's at least try to come to terms on a smaller deal that avoids sequestration from kicking in.
>> valerie jarrett, have to leave it there. thank you very much for your time.
>> thank you, savannah.
>>> live coverage of state of the union address starts at 9:00 eastern, 6:00 pacific time right here on nbc.