Obama's State of Union to rebut Republican pessimism, aide says

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Obama to Give Final State of the Union Address

In his final State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Barack Obama will offer an upbeat vision of the U.S. to contrast with Republican presidential candidates who "continue to run down America," White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said.

"We feel like we can win this future, we feel very optimistic about the future, that's a big difference between us and what's going on in this public debate right now and that's what you'll hear about on Tuesday," McDonough said on NBC's "Meet the Press," one of four Sunday morning television interviews previewing the speech.

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The president and his aides have spent recent weeks promoting a State of the Union address that will focus on long-term themes and ideas, rather than a long list of policy proposals for the year ahead, Obama's last in the Oval Office. Part of the goal, McDonough said, is to refocus the public discussion in a more uplifting direction.

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Obama's State of Union to rebut Republican pessimism, aide says
President Obama mostly focused on economic issues, taxes and the middle class in his State of the Union address on Tuesday. He also discussed foreign policy and called for congress to authorize the use of force against Islamic State militants. (Jan. 21)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands after delivering the State of the Union address on January 20, 2015 in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to address income inequality, making it easier for Americans to afford college education, and child care. (Photo by Mandel Ngan-Pool/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama, center, speaks with Secretary of State John Kerry as he enters the House Chamber to deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Obama declared the U.S. economy healed and said the nation now must begin work to close the gap between the well-off and the wanting. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. President Barack Obama, left, shakes hands with an attendee as he arrives to deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Obama declared the U.S. economy healed and said the nation now must begin work to close the gap between the well-off and the wanting. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
US President Barack Obama departs following his State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington on January 20, 2015. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. lawmakers pay tribute to the victims of the Paris terrorist attacks by holding up pencils during the State of the Union address by U.S. President Barack Obama on January 20, 2015 in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to address income inequality, making it easier for Americans to afford college education, and child care. (Photo by Mandel Ngan-Pool/Getty Images)
US lawmakers pay tribute to the victims of the Paris attacks by holding up pencils during the State of the Union address by US President Barack Obama, before a joint session of Congress on January 20, 2015 at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, bottom row second left, astronaut Scott Kelly, top row from right, aid worker Alan Gross, a former Cuban prisoner, and his wife Judy Gross applaud while listening to U.S. President Barack Obama, not pictured, deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol with in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Obama declared the U.S. economy healed and said the nation now must begin work to close the gap between the well-off and the wanting. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington, D.C., applauds as she listens to U.S. President Barack Obama, not pictured, deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Obama declared the U.S. economy healed and said the nation now must begin work to close the gap between the well-off and the wanting. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. President Barack Obama, front, waves as he arrives to deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress while U.S. Vice President Joseph 'Joe' Biden, second right, and U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, a Republican from Ohio, right, applaud at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Obama declared the U.S. economy healed and said the nation now must begin work to close the gap between the well-off and the wanting. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to including attempts to address income inequality and making it easier for Americans to afford college education and child care. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
U.S. President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Obama declared the U.S. economy healed and said the nation now must begin work to close the gap between the well-off and the wanting. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, in Washington, as Vice President Joe Biden applauds and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, listens. (AP Photo/Mandel Ngan, Pool)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama presented a broad agenda on income inequality and making it easier for Americans to afford college education and child care. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address on January 20, 2015 in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to address income inequality, making it easier for Americans to afford college education, and child care. (Photo by Mandel Ngan-Pool/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama listens to applause as he arrives to deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, in Washington. Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, applaud in the background. (AP Photo/Mandel Ngan, Pool)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President Barack Obama arrives for the State of the Union address on January 20, 2015 in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to address income inequality, making it easier for Americans to afford college education, and child care. (Photo by Mandel Ngan-Pool/Getty Images)
Alan Gross (C), the US contractor released from prison in Cuba last month, is applauded during US President Barack Obama's State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington on January 20, 2015. AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. CapitolJanuary 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to address income inequality, making it easier for Americans to afford college education, and child care. Also pictured are Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R) (R-OH). (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Alan Gross (C), recently freed after being held in Cuba since 2009, pumps his fist after being recognized by U.S. President Barack Obama during the State of the Union speech in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Barack Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda including attempts to address income inequality and making it easier for Americans to afford college education and child care. Also pictured are Dr. Pranav Shetty of Washington, DC, Judy Gross, and NASA astronaut Scott Kelly. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to including attempts to address income inequality and making it easier for Americans to afford college education and child care. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mandel Ngan, Pool)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to including attempts to address income inequality and making it easier for Americans to afford college education and child care. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama prepares to give his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015.(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
President Barack Obama waves before giving his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker of Ohio listen as President Barack Obama gives his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Barack Obama waves before giving his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Vice President Joe Biden applaud (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Barack Obama gives a copy of his State of the Union address to Vice President Joe Biden, prior to delivering it before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015.House Speaker John Boehner of hio is at right. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union speech before members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to including attempts to address income inequality and making it easier for Americans to afford college education and child care. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama is greeted on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, before his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
US President Barack Obama (R) departs following his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill January 20, 2014 in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO / BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama arrives to deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mandel Ngan, Pool)
US President Barack Obama (C) arrives to deliver the State of The Union address on January 20, 2015, at the US Capitol in Washington, DC AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama arrives to deliver the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington on January 20, 2015. AFP PHOTO/JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama greets House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and Vice President Joe Bien on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, before his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress . (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Barack Obama hugs Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, before giving his State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
U.S. President Barack Obama greets attendees as he arrives to deliver the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Obama declared the U.S. economy healed and said the nation now must begin work to close the gap between the well-off and the wanting. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) talks with Speaker of the House U.S. Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) before the start of U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to address income inequality, making it easier for Americans to afford college education, and child care. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Gen. Raymond Odierno (L) talks with Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) before the start of U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to including attempts to address income inequality and making it easier for Americans to afford college education and child care. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (C) shakes hands before the start of the State of the Union speech in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. U.S. President Barack Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda including attempts to address income inequality and making it easier for Americans to afford college education and child care. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Speaker of the House John Boehner await the arrival of President Barack Obama for the State of The Union address on January 20, 2015 in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to address income inequality, making it easier for Americans to afford college education, and child care. (Photo by Mandel Ngan-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry greets members of Congress in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol before U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda including attempts to address income inequality and making it easier for Americans to afford college education and child care. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rep.Paul Ryam R-Wis. waits on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, before President Barack Obama's State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress . (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Speaker of the House U.S. Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) wait for the start of U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to including attempts to address income inequality and making it easier for Americans to afford college education and child care. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Attorney General Eric Holder talks with Rep.Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, before President Baraclk Obama's State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., center, talks with Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., left, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, before President Barack Obama's State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Alan Gross waves from the first lady's box before President Barack Obama's State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Chief Justice John Roberts arrives on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, for President Barack Obama;s State of the Union addre. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell waits for the start of the State of the Union address by President Barack Obama Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, in the House Chamber of the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/Mandel Ngan, Pool)
First lady Michelle Obama acknowledges applause on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, before President Barack Obama's State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. Front rowm from left are, Astrid Muhammad, Anthony Mendez, Mrs. Obama, and Jill Biden. Second row, from left are, Pranav Shetty, Judy Gross, Alan Gross and Scott Kelly. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
US First Lady Michelle Obama arrives for the State of the Union address by husband US President Barack Obama at the US Capitol in Washington on January 20, 2015. AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, center, attends the State of the Union address by U.S. President Barack Obama, not pictured, to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. Obama declared the U.S. economy healed and said the nation now must begin work to close the gap between the well-off and the wanting. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. President Barack Obama's motorcade makes its way along Independence Avenue toward the U.S. Capitol prior to the State of the Union address to Congress, January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Obama was expected to lay out a broad agenda to address income inequality, making it easier for Americans to afford college education, and child care. (Photo by Drew Angerer-Pool/Getty Images)
Members of the media set up for television broadcasts in National Statuary Hall before U.S. President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. President Obama will focus on the gap between wealthy Americans and middle- and lower income households Tuesday night in Washington when he lays out his plans for what the White House is calling the 'fourth quarter' of his presidency. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. Capitol police officers stand on guard in the Capitol Building Rotunda before U.S. President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015. President Obama will focus on the gap between wealthy Americans and middle- and lower income households Tuesday night in Washington when he lays out his plans for what the White House is calling the 'fourth quarter' of his presidency. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images`
Capitol police gather at the Capitol in Washington on January 20, 2015 before US President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: The sun sets behind the U.S. Capitol ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Later this evening, Obama will deliver his sixth and final State of the Union adress to the nation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: U.S. Capitol Police Officer John O'Shea (C) checks passes while standing guard ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address at the Capitol building January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. Later this evening, Obama will deliver his sixth and final State of the Union adress to the nation. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
The Washington Monument is seen on the eve of the State of the Union address on Capitol Hill January 20, 2015 in Washington, DC. US President Barack Obama will on Tuesday demand a hostile Congress increase taxes on the rich, in a State of the Union address that sets the stage for coming election battles. AFP PHOTO/BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
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The 23 guests invited to join first lady Michelle Obama to watch the speech signify much of the message the president hopes to deliver. They include a Syrian refugee, a former undocumented immigrant and a man who defended Muslims after his partner was killed during the San Bernardino, California, terror attack in December.

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Symbolic Seat

One seat in the first lady's box will be left empty to honor victims of gun violence, the White House said.

Donald Trump, front-runner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, has called for restricting Syrian refugees, banning Muslim immigrants and deporting millions of undocumented immigrants. "Right now, the state of our union is a mess," Trump said on "Meet the Press."

McDonough said Trump's pessimistic message was echoed across the Republican field.

While Obama's previous addresses have included calls for Congress to enact legislation on raising the minimum wage, increasing infrastructure spending and ending certain corporate tax breaks, the president is opting for a broader approach as his tenure comes to an end.

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Republican Agenda

Obama is expected to speak about his vision at a time when Republicans who control Congress have blocked most of his legislative proposals and are seeking to present an agenda of their own to the American people.

Republicans last week sent the president a partial repeal of Obamacare, his signature health-care bill, which he promptly vetoed. House Speaker Paul Ryan said it was the first of several "big ideas" that Congress would embrace this year in advance of November elections, to encourage voters to elect a Republican president.

"The country's not headed in the right direction," Ryan told reporters on Thursday. "So we as the alternative party owe the country an alternative. And that's what we're going to do."

Positive Payrolls

Following the monthly payrolls report on Jan. 8 that showed U.S. employers added a better-than-expected 292,000 positions in December, Obama will seek to paint an optimistic picture of the economy seven years after he took office during a crippling recession. In the days after the State of the Union speech, Obama plans to travel to Omaha, Nebraska, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to tout a falling unemployment rate and federal funding for early education.

Obama is also likely use the address to speak about his recent executive actions aimed at limiting gun sales to criminals and the mentally ill, McDonough said.

With the first 2016 nominating contests only weeks away, the president's top aide said Obama would not endorse a candidate in the Democratic presidential primary, where former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont are sparring over their records on guns.

The fight against Islamic State will also feature prominently in the speech, after December's mass shooting in San Bernardino by a couple that was inspired by the terrorist group.

Taking on Terrorism

The White House on Friday announced a new counterterrorism task force that will attempt to thwart extremists and their use of social media. The announcement came as administration officials were meeting with executives from Twitter Inc., Apple Inc., Facebook Inc. and other Silicon Valley firms to discuss options for combating the spread of extremism online and through encrypted technology.

Recent weapons tests by North Korea and Iran also present a challenge in Obama's final year. McDonough said that sanctions targeting individuals and entities responsible for the tests would be issued "when it's time."

"We will issue those sanctions and those designations at the appropriate time," he said on "Fox News Sunday."

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