If Only Obama Would Just Mail it in

Gene Healy is always worth reading on SOTU day. Today is no different:

Today's presidents are, by their nature, "dividers, not uniters," argues University of Maryland political scientist Frances Lee. Her data shows that when presidents highlight a given issue in the State of the Union, they significantly increase the chances it will be decided by a party-line vote.

The modern president has become a lightning rod for partisan sentiment. In large part, that's because the modern presidency has become too prominent and far too powerful.

The original SOTU was a modest affair, in keeping with the constitutional requirement that the president give Congress "Information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient."

The idea was, with a full-time executive and a part-time legislature, the president would be well-placed to gather facts that would help Congress's deliberations. As President Zachary Taylor put it in 1849, "the Executive has the authority to recommend (not to dictate) measures to Congress."

But today's SOTU has become an imperious sermon befitting an Imperial President, short on "Information," long on pomp and circumstance, and larded with exorbitant demands on the public purse. Shaking up the seating chart won't help.

Some say that, given modern technology, there's no going back to the humble communique that the Framers envisioned, and that 19th-century presidents used to have copied and messengered up to the Hill.

But Obama's said to be inseparable from his Blackberry. Couldn't he do us all a favor and just text it over?

As an aperitiv for tonight's lock-in, re-read Healy's 2008 Reason classic "The Cult of the Presidency."

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  • ||

    Locutus of McCain is pretty creepy.

  • ||

    I can't remember that last time I sat through even a significant portion of any politician's speech. Maybe Bush's speech after 9/11? Seriously, I just can't stand to listen to any member of our political class engage in their unique brand of lying, insulting, and sententious pontificating.

  • Sidd Finch||

    This is my favorite SOTU.

  • Greer||

    yeah, but you miss the call out to the poor black kid in the gallery who despite all odds made it to high school.

  • PIRS||

    I rarely ever watch a State of the Union. I read the transcripts of them later. Less painful. The whole thing is pointless anyway.

  • Ragin Cajun||

    The whole thing is pointless anyway.

    Now, now, the possibilities for drinking games are endless.

  • ||

    I almost completely ignore these speeches. Don't watch them, don't read transcripts. They are almost totally meaningless.

    Though I will send Obama $100 if he'll break into "Tie a Yellow Ribbon" right in the middle of the speech.

  • Paul||

    But Obama's said to be inseparable from his Blackberry.

    This seems racist, but I can't put my finger on why.

  • ||

    People refer to Blackberrys as Crackberrys. Crack is a drug disproportionately favored by blacks. Therefore, referring to a black man's Blackberry is racist. Q.E.D.

  • ||

    I thought Michelle was the "Blackberry."

  • ||

    I also heard her toes looked like Brazil Nuts, but I guess that's a comment for a holiday thread.

  • ||

    But don't you think "Blackberry" is a better nickname than the far more accurate: Shovel Face?

  • ||

    It may be a better name for her private parts, but I cannot attest to that. I personally like "Fat-free fat-ass."

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    You're all going to burn in racist hell.

    I'll be the guy in the room next door, desperately trying to figure out why the A/C thermostat isn't working.

  • Spiny Norman||

    Am I the only one who reads SOTU as STFU?

  • ||

    Not anymore, you're not.

  • Cliché Bandit||

    Why always the abbreviations? The computer does all the work...hell copy and paste if you have to. What about COTUS (Congress) or HOROTUS or SOTUS...sounds like a damn greek after party.

    Publius of the United States

  • ||

    It's actually Congress Of and In the United States or COITUS.

  • oncogenesis||

    A zesty enterprise.

  • ||

    It shouldn't surprise anyone. Coitus, congress, means the same thing.

    con·gress
    [n. kong-gris; v. kuhn-gres, kuhng-]

    noun

    * * *

    7. coitus; sexual intercourse
  • bubba||

    or, maybe Presidents only highlight the things they are having trouble getting done.

  • Pip||

    "If Only Obama Would Just Mail it in"

    The bitch has been mailing it in ever since he took the oath of office.

  • Invisible Finger||

    The SOTU should be the STFU.

  • ||

    One part of President Dean's program of reeling in the Imperial Presidency would be to go back to Ye Olde Schoole written SOTU.

    For the first one, though, I would walk into the chamber with everyone present as if I was going to give a speech, hand the memo to the Sergeant at Arms, and walk out.

  • ||

    I'd send a dead fish to Congress.

  • EscapedWestOfTheBigMuddy||

    That'd be a thing to see.

    But even more fun would be watching the major networks trying to figure out what to do with two hours of airtime for which they have nothing scheduled...

  • ||

    Oh, they'd use it to abuse me for being a Bad President. Demeaning the Majesty of the Office, blah, blah.

    Like I'd care. I'd already be on Marine 1 and off to do some sport fishing in the Bahamas.

  • Barely Suppressed Rage||

    It would be pretty magnificent if the next president - whoever it might be - would return to the Jeffersonian tradition of sending over a letter.

    Sure would confuse the shit out of all the pundits.

  • Greer||

    and it should start with

    "I want to discuss the state of the union, and it's a bit fucked up...."

  • Anonymous Coward||

    If I ever had the (mis)fortune of being elected to Congress, I would hire a prostitute and have her (or him) occupy my designated seat for the evening of the State of the Union.

    Then again, prostitutes don't deserve to be subjected to that. I'll just prop up a dead pig carcass in the seat.

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