Darren Richardson

Feb. 17, 2013

President Obama laid out an ambitious agenda in his 2013 State of the Union speech, but in politics, as in life, ambitions often collide with reality.

The first American Pundit writing assignment for 2013 asks Allvoices writers to share their views on what areas the president should focus on and, if applicable, what proposals may need to be sacrificed on the altar of pragmatic compromise.

Here’s the assignment:

President Obama laid out a broad agenda in his State of the Union address, including tax increases, immigration reform, gun control and more. What area(s) do you think he should focus on going forward, and how should Republicans respond?

At least one of the two winners for the Feb. 18-28 segment will be selected from responses to the assignment.

This year, American Pundit writing assignments will come with an accompanying reading assignment. It will be fully optional, of course, but the idea is to present Allvoices writers with at least two columns by pundits with differing opinions and/or areas of focus on the same event or issue.

For this segment, we’ve selected columns by Eleanor Clift (“Obama’s appeal for gun vote is emotional high point of state-of-union speech,” published at thedailybeast.com) and Fred Barnes (“There he goes again,” published at theweeklystandard.com), both of which deal with the State of the Union address.

Clift and Barnes have been considered top-tier American pundits since the early days of “The McLaughlin Group.” Clift has appeared as a panelist on the program since the 1980s; Barnes was a regular on the show from 1988 to 1998.

“The McLaughlin Group,” which premiered on PBS in 1982, is the common ancestor of much of today’s political programming insofar as it catapulted televised discussions about political matters from the realm of the dry and politely serious into a dimension where highly animated and emotionally charged verbal urgency carries the day at least as much as the facts, assumptions and opinions being discussed.

The theatrical brilliance of the early years gained the program a loyal fan base and has influenced, to one degree or another, the way millions of American voters view and engage in political discourse to this day.

“The McLaughlin Group” is still seen mostly on PBS affiliates. It has been hosted since its debut by the estimable John McLaughlin, the one-time Jesuit priest turned speechwriter for and adviser to President Richard Nixon. If it’s not televised in your area, you can watch it online at www.mclaughlin.com.

You may submit open-topic entries related to American politics, columns related to the writing assignment, or both. You may enter as often as you like. Entries must be submitted no earlier than 12 a.m. Feb. 18 and no later than 11:59 p.m. Feb. 28, with all contest times Pacific. If you have not yet created your free Allvoices account, which you need to enter the contest, there’s no time like the present.

If you like to write about U.S. politics, enter Allvoices’ "The American Pundit" political writing contest. Allvoices is awarding four $250 prizes each month between now and Nov. 30. These monthly winners earn eligibility for the $5,000 grand prize, to be awarded in December. If you do not already have a free account, sign up here.

Sources and Resources:

John McLaughlin, Nixon's Priest, Is Now a Civilian Radio Host Who Is Married and Hoping for Fatherhood, People, Sept. 22, 1980

Allvoices’ American Pundit political writing contest returns for 2013, Feb. 12, 2013, Allvoices.com