Every January or February, the American media gathers to pretend that a ceremonial speech delivered by the president to a joint session of Congress is important, even crucial. By March, almost no one will rememember what the president has said. This cycle of hype and forgetfulness is even more pronounced in second-term presidencies, as lame-duck executives announce major policy initiatives to indifferent voters and hostile congressmen, who tend to strangle such ideas in the crib.
But reading these forgotten speeches in 2013, argues Matt Welch, can teach us some valuable lessons. Not least of which is that grand legislative schemes tend to fail, and politicians tend to say some ridiculous things while insisting on urgent action right now.