State of the Union address – Vanderbilt experts available

President Obama is set to talk to the nation on Jan. 12 for his final State of the Union address. Vanderbilt has an array of experts available.

Presidential Elections · Attack Ads · Negative Campaigning

John Geer, Distinguished Professor of Political Science
Vanderbilt Political Science GeerGeer will look at the speech and what it could mean for the 2016 presidential election. Does President Obama take implicit shots at some GOP contenders? Geer writes and researches extensively on political campaigns, incivility in campaigns, negative ads, the impact of negative campaigning on voter participation and the news media’s coverage of negativity. Geer co-chairs Vanderbilt’s Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions and the Vanderbilt Poll which provides a non-partisan and scientifically based reading of public opinion within the state of Tennessee and Nashville.

Watch video of Geer talking about the media’s role in attack ads here.

Political Party Polarization · Why Congress is Failing · Trust in Government · Media and Politics

Marc Hetherington Vanderbilt Political ScienceMarc Hetherington, professor of political science
Hetherington can discuss party polarization and why Congress seems to be failing right now. Will Obama’s speech provide evidence that there might be opportunities to work across the aisle to solve problems? Hetherington has a new book coming out, Why Washington Won’t Work: Polarization, Political Trust and the Governing Crisis. He can also discuss the presidential election, voting, public opinion polls, media coverage during a campaign, anti-government campaign rhetoric and how trust in government affects elections and public policy.

Watch Hetherington explaining why Congress is failing here.

Presidential Political Rhetoric · Political Communication

Vanessa Beasley, associate professor of communication studies and dean of the Ingram Commons
Beasley can talk about whether President Obama successfully gets his issues across during the State of the Union address. She can discuss how he treated this final address differently than past SOUs. Beasley is author of Who Belongs in America? Presidents, Rhetoric and Immigration.


Closing Guantanamo Bay Detention Center · International Law · War Crimes

Michael Newton Law ProfessorMichael Newton, professor of the practice of law
Newton participated in the initial planning meetings to set up Guantanamo almost 15 years ago and continues to be involved in the inter-agency process advising on legal issues surrounding Guantanamo and its possible closing. He is an expert on military commissions and laws surrounding any type of military court or war crimes. He helped revamp laws and procedures for U.S. military commissions as well as helped establish the Iraqi Special Tribunal and led the training in international criminal law for its judges, including holding sessions in Baghdad.

Watch Newton give an inside look into the trial of Saddam Hussein here.

Gun Control · Gun Violence and Mental Health · Mass Shootings

Jonathan MetzlJonathan Metzl, director of Center for Medicine, Health and Society, psychiatrist and sociologist
Metzl is an expert on gun violence and mental illness. He has research that specifically addresses issues surrounding mental illness, mass shootings and treatment. In the article, “Mental Illness, Mass Shootings and the Politics of American Firearms,”Metzl analyzed data and literature linking guns and mental illness over the past 40 years.

Watch a video of Jonathan Metzl talking about mental health and gun crimes here.

Criminal Justice Reform · Juvenile Crime and Punishment · Government Surveillance (4th Amendment)

Chris Slobogin, professor of law and psychiatry
Slobogin is an established expert in criminal justice, with more than 100 articles, books and chapters on topics relating to criminal procedure, mental health law and evidence. He’s director of Vanderbilt Law School’s Criminal Justice Program. The book Psychological Evaluations for the Courts is considered the standard-bearer in forensic mental health.

Slobogin is the co-author of the book, Juveniles at Risk: A Plea for Preventive Justice which examines at how juvenile offenders should be handled and treated. He says the struggle against juvenile crime comes down to one question — do we want revenge or results?