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January 28th, 2014
05:50 PM ET

Roundtable: The strange pageantry and traditions of State of the Union night

(CNN) - It's a little late for new year's resolutions, but tonight, President Barack Obama will lay out his vision for the year ahead.

Just hours before Obama delivers his fifth State of the Union address, the White House revealed its plan for an executive order to increase the minimum wage to $10.10/hour for new federal contract workers.

What more can Obama really get done in the year ahead, if he decides to go it alone?

"Not all executive orders are the same," said CNN contributor and Republican strategist Kevin Madden. "It's the way that the President is now saying that he is going to use them, which is in a confrontational way. And also in a way that sort of goes against the central premise of his 2008 campaign."

"All presidents learn that if you hit your entire wagon, the possibility of getting things done through a confrontational Congress, you're not going to get anything done," said former White House press secretary to the Clinton administration Dee Dee Myers.

Obama is building up to a "year of action," said Myers.

The pageantry of State of the Union night

State of the Union is a weird tradition on its face - this is a night where people actually count the number of applause moments.

"It's like attending an arranged marriage," said Madden. "There's not all the drunken revelry of a wedding where two people want to be there together."

"I think the most interesting moment is the walking in. You see the members, Republicans and Democrats," said Myers.

Lawmakers actually spend the day camped out, staking out a seat to make sure they get a handshake from the President on his way into the chamber.

"Reaching out for that one moment, and how excited they are when the President looks at them, touches them, acknowledges them. It suggests the pageantry of American politics in the best sense," said Myers.

It is perhaps the Vice President and the Speaker of the House who are in the strangest positions. They have to sit there, looking intensely interested the entire time, staring at the back of the President's head, never revealing anything. And the camera is on them at all times.

For more of our roundtable with Kevin Madden and Dee Dee Myers, including their favorite State of the Union moments from years past, check out the video above.

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