“Everybody agrees that our immigration system is broken. Unfortunately, Washington has allowed the problem to fester for too long,” Obama said in the video. “So what I’m going to be laying out is the things I can do with my lawful authority as president to make the system work better even as I continue to work with Congress and encourage them to get a bipartisan, comprehensive bill that can solve the entire problem.”
He didn't elaborate beyond that because, well, he wants people to tune in Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET, when he speaks from the East Room of the White House.
President Obama doesn't often use the formal prime-time speech or statement -- he prefers to give addresses to big crowds and feed off their energy.
Tomorrow's speech will be 11th Address to the Nation by Pres Obama; 5th time from the East Room. Only twice from the Oval Office.— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) November 19, 2014
The last time the president gave an evening speech was in September, when he announced an open-ended campaign of airstrikes to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Obama spoke from the Cross Hall of the White House, again avoiding the Oval Office backdrop.
Why would someone who is so big on technology want to address the nation on a medium that Democratic consultant and Bill Clinton adviser Paul Begala calls "straight out of the cutting edge of the 1950s?"
Because it is time-tested, and it works.
"There are moments when nothing else summons the attention of the nation," Begala said. A presidential address on prime-time television says that "this is not just another issue," he said. "This is worthy of the president in prime time. People won’t stop everything and tune in, many will, but also others will say, ‘hey did you see that?’ or they’ll look at it and say, ‘oh I heard he was giving a big speech last night' and they’ll look on their computers and see what their cousin in Wisconsin thought of it and link to it on Facebook.”
The White House is also hoping to reach a captive audience: Obama's speech will air during the Latin Grammys, and Univision has said it will cut into programming to air the speech. The four major networks, ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX, will not. (Update: Even though the networks are not airing the speech, several local affiliates and network-owned stations in individual markets will broadcast it live. CBS also plans to air the speech live for West Coast viewers.)
The White House said Wednesday that the timing was engineered to catch people sitting in front of their televisions or mobile devices.
"8 p.m. on a Thursday evening is an opportunity for people who – either sitting in front of their televisions or sitting in front of their tablets or in front of their smartphones, to hear directly from the president about what he’s decided and how and why he wants to move forward," White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday. "So that’s – that explains the reasoning for tomorrow’s time frame."