Program note: CNN's live, comprehensive coverage of President Barack Obama's State of the Union address starts at 7 p.m. ET Tuesday. Go to CNN.com for complete coverage or take it with you on your iPhone, iPad or Android.
Washington (CNN) -- You can set your watch by it. Within minutes of the start of a State of the Union address, the President will offer his assessment -- almost always positive -- of where America stands.
"We can say with renewed confidence that the state of our union is stronger," President Barack Obama declared in the third paragraph of last year's speech.
But why wait for him to tell us how things are going this year? And don't presidents always spin it to make it sound as good as possible for their administration?
Instead, CNN asked its correspondents, producers, analysts and contributors to provide their assessment of the state of the Union as 2014 begins before Obama's speech on Tuesday night.
Here's how they see it:
CNNMoney's Annalyn Kurtz reports that economic recovery continues from the recession Obama inherited, but so far it seems that only the rich are getting richer.
CNN Senior White House Correspondent Jim Acosta reports that Obama and his team plan to use executive orders to bypass legislative gridlock in their declared "year of action."
Darrell West, the vice president for governance studies at the Brookings Institution, writes that political expediency in an election year may bring some congressional cooperation rather than continued partisan stalemate.
CNN's Tom Cohen reports there's no evident peace dividend for the U.S. military after ending the Iraq war and winding down combat operations in Afghanistan, due to budget cuts in Washington and a transition to a more modern armed forces.
CNN National Security Producer Jamie Crawford reports the Obama administration faces questions of a weakened role in world affairs despite a high-profile role in international talks involving several Middle East issues, as well as an increasing U.S. presence in Asia.
CNN Justice Producer Evan Perez reports that an evolving terrorist threat and classified leaks that disclosed U.S. surveillance programs are combining to bring changes to how the nation responded to the 9/11 attacks more than 12 years ago.
CNN's Ashley Killough contributed to this report.