State of the Union

Prediction: Obama's Last SOTU Address Won't Really Be That Different from the Others

They're always full of broad elementary civics class blather.


I did just buy a Powerball ticket, so I guess we'll see …
Credit: {Guerrilla Futures | Jason Tester} / photo on flickr

So this is your narrative for tonight's State of the Union address:

The White House is billing President Obama's seventh and final State of the Union address as "untraditional," an opportunity to move beyond the usual laundry list of policy proposals and ambitions toward a broader consideration of the president's legacy and the country's direction.

The president's top aides have characterized this change in approach as a way for Obama to convey his optimism for the country and his hopes for how America might remember him. But the decision to forgo the usual catalog of ideas for congressional action says a lot about where the president finds himself, at the start of his final year in office, as he stares out at the joint session TuesdayWith both chambers of Congress run by Republicans and the city Obama once promised to unite more fractured and dug in than ever, there are very few items left on which this president and this Congress can come to agreement. Instead, as both Obama and the Republicans who run the legislative branch angle to help their respective parties win the White House, the fight has moved to the battleground of ideas and persuading actors other than the federal government to advance their respective agendas.

Obama's pitch to the country will be that staying the course that his administration laid out, mostly through legislation in his first two years in office when Democrats had congressional majorities — and then through executive action afterward — will bring about a better America.

That's from Yahoo! Politics. My response? Uh, where's the part where this is any different from any other State of the Union Address. Here's how Politico described the plan:

The closest Obama's going to come to 2016 politics in his State of the Union is setting the grand vision and offering an optimistic, aspirational contrast to the doomsday at-the-barricades mentality that's dominating the GOP primary race.

In what will likely be his final night with all the national attention focused on him, Obama's taking a last shot at telling America what he thinks it can be, and trying to brand the future.

It won't be a recap of his presidency, nor will Obama make the case for the third term that Clinton's been insisting on the trail she doesn't want. He also won't spend much time talking up the good parts of his record to push back on what Republicans call the failed Obama-Clinton economy and foreign policy.

Sorry, but I'm calling bullshit.

First of all, every State of the Union address is infused with hopeful, drippy nonsense as it is. Here's some random civics textbook word salad from 2014's SOTU:

The point is, there are millions of Americans outside Washington who are tired of stale political arguments, and are moving this country forward.  They believe, and I believe, that here in America, our success should depend not on accident of birth, but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams.  That's what drew our forebears here.  It's how the daughter of a factory worker is CEO of America's largest automaker; how the son of a barkeeper is Speaker of the House; how the son of a single mom can be President of the greatest nation on Earth. 

Beyond that, we've already heard that the usual crop of newsmakers from the previous year will be there as guests, and the president has absurdly decided to leave a seat in the House gallery empty to symbolize deaths from gun violence. The possibility that Obama won't mention any of this stuff from the last year is a bit hard to swallow, as is the idea that Obama can make a case for Democratic Party votes without actually detailing anything recent.

In the event Obama does attempt to make the argument that executive actions are the way to get the president's agenda done, doesn't that essentially kind of play into Donald Trump's hands? Trump's candidacy is pretty much predicated on not giving one single damn about any separation of federal powers. Maybe Trump actually is the natural consequence of 16 years of steadily weakening legislative oversight. Maybe be careful what you wish for, President Obama.

If anything, this whole push to the media that this speech is going to somehow be different comes off like a desperate effort to get people to tune in to a lame duck speech from a president whose delivery style and content has become repetitive and predictable. I would gather that's typical of any two-term president. Don't take it as an Obama slam. All presidents' speeches start becoming pretty predictable toward the end.

There's nothing terribly surprising that a Democratic president wants to end his term encouraging voters to embrace his Democratic vision of a Democratic America whose idea of "unity" involves Democratic leaders getting whatever it is that they want. And it won't be terribly surprising when Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley's rebuttal agrees with the basic idea, but just replaces all Democrats with Republicans.

Meanwhile, the rest of America increasingly tunes out, and fewer and fewer of them are willing to identify themselves as members of either party. The future of American politics seems to be looking less like what either the Democratic Party or the Republican Party is hoping for.


NEXT: Supreme Court Rules for Florida Death Row Inmate in Sixth Amendment Case

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. I remember my days as a young idealist where I looked forward to the State of the Union. Now I just hear a fart noise when someone mentions it.

    1. In high school and college, I watched because I thought they were important. It made me feel like a real adult to be so well informed.

      ‘Course, that was also the same time of my life that I’d coat my hands with hairspray, and let friends light them on fire.

    2. Last one I listened to was the 2002 one….I was waiting to hear about war….I got mobilized end of ’03, and haven’t bothered to listen to one since.

  2. Tonight, on a very special episode of the State of the Union…

    1. I’m hoping he gives his final SOTU rap-style. Unfortunately, Obama only knows one common rap word.

      Uh, uh, uh,
      Uh uh, uh uh uh uh.
      Uh, uh, uh,
      Uh uh, uh, uh uh, uh.

      Uh, uh, uh,
      Uh uh, uh uh, uh uh
      Uh, uh, uh, uh
      Uh, uh, uh.

      And Obama can’t keep a beat for shit – all those “uh”s gonna have long awkward pauses mixed in randomly.

  3. how the son of a single mom can be President of the greatest nation on Earth.

    Of course it helps that she’s a single mom from a rich family so that son can attend elite private schools…

    1. Shh, you’re not supposed to mention that. He’s “from the street”… the mean streets of Hawaii.

      1. Hawaii has some very mean streets. I sure as hell would not want to be caught as a non-native in some neighborhoods outside of broad daylight.

  4. I am calling bullshit on Scott being sorry about calling bullshit.

    Maybe Trump actually is the natural consequence of 16 years of steadily weakening legislative oversight.

    Obama is partially responsible for our next horrible leader, that is for sure.

    1. This. Whoever that next horrible leader is, they’ll pick right up where Obama left off as far as Executive overreach is concerned.

      1. After Bush the Lesser, I hoped Dems would have a similar reaction to the power of the Executive as they did after Nixon/Watergate.

        I underestimated how much they would deify Obama.

        1. Same, naturally, will go for the Republicans who currently want Obama impeached for executive overstep. They’ll be right back on Team Overstep as long as it’s Team Overstep Red.

  5. “Obama’s Last SOTU Address”

    What a wonderful thought: last, final, done, end.

    1. Thank God.

    2. Obama’s *Historic* Last SOTU Address, amiright?

    3. Next year: President Trump’s 1st SOTU

    4. No idea what you think you have to look forward to, Mr. Brightside.

  6. So, no drinking game for those masochistic enough to watch the SOTU? A shot for every time he uses the word ‘I’?

    No, that is a bad idea…never mind that. The entire commentariat would be killed off by alcohol poisoning.

    1. I was born with a second liver, and I still would not play that game !!! =D

  7. Drink it in, boys. It will be two years before we get another.

  8. I’d like for him to comment on the Royal Bank of Scotland’s latest announcement

    RBS economists have urged investors to sell everything except high-quality bonds, warning of a “fairly cataclysmic year ahead.”

    Writing in a client note dated Jan. 8, the bank’s European rates research team said that clients should be concentrating on return of capital, not return on capital, and that an ominous outlook to the world economy “all looks similar to 2008.”

    1. “Nothing to see here… mumble mumble something about Recovery Summer 8: Recover Summer-er…”

      1. I don’t think 99 Luftballons is anywhere nearly as under-rated as Walk the Dinosaur. I think more people realize what 99 is about, as opposed to WtD.

        1. Maybe now, but at the time no one got it at all, even after the English version.

          WtD may have a better claim, though.

          1. Just FYI, 99 Luftballons isn’t underrated. I think it was rated quite well.

  9. “We’ve really been wonderful and we’d be even more wonderful if it weren’t for the rethuglincans! Thank you very much!”

  10. “Obama’s seventh and final State of the Union address”

    You mean we get only 7 SOTUs? So, in other words, the SOTU isn’t a vital annual summary from the executive branch to Congress — if it were we’d be getting one next January before the new Pres is sworn in. It’s as if this annual farce is farcical.

  11. I played the ‘NPR For Ten Seconds Game’ today where they were having a love-in with an Obama speech writer. I don’t care what party you’re from, modern political speechwriting is a cesspool.

    In other news, Bikini Barista coffee stand owner pleads guilty to two counts of Libertarian Moment.

    Lancaster managed the stands for Panico. She is a veteran in the business and was caught up in Everett’s first coffee stand scandal.
    In 2009, Lancaster, then 18, was working for Bill Wheeler Sr. at a Grab-N-Go espresso stand. Wheeler’s stands made national headlines after Everett cops revealed that baristas were exposing themselves to customers in exchange for money.…../150609602

    1. You are telling me that David Frum was the result of cesspool gestation? I believe that.

      1. I always wondered what his relation to John Frum was.

    2. You caught that interview with Favreau too. It was vomit inducing.

      1. I remember back in the 90s NPR humped a Clinton speechwriter’s leg in a long, painful interview.

    3. “Panico, a former exotic dancer, pleaded guilty last year to promoting prostitution out of Java Juggs and Twin Peaks…”

      I see.

    4. Mainstream media is a cesspool. Bloomberg, huff post, and the like are spewing the propaganda about Obama’s “incredible” legacy and proggy agendas. Of course, they tiptoe over the constitutional violations and American rebellion against his “change you can believe in”.

  12. I’m looking forward to the LAST State of the Union Address where a future president announces that he will return to the original written letter form of reporting to Congress and scrap the entire spectacle of making a speech.

  13. I hear there will be an empty suit at the podium in memory of when we had a real president…

    1. When was that?

      1. Before the Civil War I think but I’m not sure…

        1. Grover Cleveland
          Calvin Coolidge

    2. Will there be any faux Greek columns set up on either side of it?

  14. Obama should finally tell the truth and admit he is and will be considered one of the worst presidents ever.

  15. …and the president has absurdly decided to leave a seat in the House gallery empty to symbolize deaths from gun violence.

    Someone canceled. The first one on social media to comment on the optics of an empty chair wins.

    1. “…and the president has absurdly decided…..”

      That description pretty much fits everything Obama has ever done – in his life.

    2. How sweet would it be if Clint Eastwood showed up and sat in the empty chair.

      And there would be absolutely nothing anyone could do about it, at least not without creating a huge scene that would overshadow everything else.

      1. That would be epic.

      2. Sorry, Ted Nugent is the only SOTU guest I’ll accept.

        Though I like the idea of inviting more washed up rockers.
        No folk musicians of course.
        Only the most ghetto of Rappers.

        …and strippers.

  16. So this time will be “different.” Different how?

    The White House is billing President Obama’s seventh and final State of the Union address as “untraditional,” an opportunity to move beyond the usual laundry list of policy proposals and ambitions toward a broader consideration of the president’s legacy…

    Apparently a lot more navel gazing and ruminating about how awesome he is. I think I’ll be playing Forza 6 instead.

    1. I’d prefer ultra-traditional, as in sending a letter to Congress.

      The sycophantic theatre that it’s become is embarrassing.

  17. The SOTU is completely inconsequential, of no more moment than a photo op in the Oval Office with a troop of Boy Scouts.

    1. Unless he makes an ass of himself again and gets roll-eyes from one of the supremes.

      1. I thought the Supremes said they wouldn’t visit the SOTU after that last event.

  18. Last SOTU, then STFU.

    1. Don’t bet on it. He’ll never STFU. He’ll still be lecturing at us about how awesome he is long after he retires.

      1. Retire? He’ll go on to start the Obama foundation that will be run by his wife, who will be running for President in the next 10 to 15 years.

  19. It’s how the daughter of a factory worker is CEO of America’s largest automaker; how the son of a barkeeper is Speaker of the House; how the son of a single mom can be President of the greatest nation on Earth.

    It’s so cute when they try to pretend that they’re anything like us and that they understand how much they fuck up our lives.

    1. the son of a single mom

      And that worked out so well for everyone!

  20. I’m calling bullshit on that SOTU “transcript”.

    The point is, uhhhhhh, there are millions of Americans! Outside Washington who……. are tired. Of stale political arguments. And are moving this country forward. They believe. And I believe. That here in America, uhhhhhhh, our success! Should depend not on accident of birth, but the strength. Of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams.

    That’s what drew our forebears here. It’s how the…… daughter!……. of a factory worker! Is CEO of uhhhhhhh, America’s largest automaker. How the son of……. a barkeeper! Is Speaker of the House. How the, uhhhhhhh, son! Of a single mom! Can be President. Of the greatest nation on Earth.

    I swear it’s like he’s reading this stuff straight off the teleprompter without ever having seen it before, and without ever having read anything before, without having any clue whatsoever where the end of a sentence might pop up or what words might be the emphatic words in a sentence. He sprinkles pauses and periods and exclamation points totally at random throughout the speech as if he has no idea how one word or phrase might connect to the next and it’s an annoying-as-hell speaking style.

    1. Really! I’ve been baffled since 2008 as to why anybody thinks that Obama is such a fantastic public speaker. Between what you mention and his condescending “of course I’m the smartest person in the world” manner, I’d rather listen to someone scraping their fingernails on a blackboard.

      1. Yeah, but libtards love to have daddy government come in and explain to them that everything is okay and they don’t need to worry themselves about any of the mean old problems in the world.

      2. his condescending “of course I’m the smartest person in the world” manner

        That’s my favorite part about Obama. He attends one of the top, most expensive private schools in the nation, maxes out at a 30 ACT (which is probably, what, the 20th percentile of the Reason commentariat?), and then behaves as though he’s a political Einstein sent to earth to save us from ourselves.

        There’s nothing more dangerous than an political overachiever.

        1. From what I’ve seen of politicians, I don’t think he’s necessarily that much of an overachiever. Ninety percent of the rest of them are just as bad.

          Oh, and for the record, 33.

  21. My favorite part of the SOTU is how the members of the leftist media get themselves worked up into such a tizzy over Obama immediately afterwards, only to eventually be disappointed each year.

    For the last seven years, after each SOTU, it’s always, “ZOMG TEH REAL OBAMA IS BACK HES REDY TO FIGHT HELLZ YEAH FIRED UP THIS IS TEH OBAMA I VOTED FOR!!!!” and then, a few days later, reality sets in and they realize that his grand proclamations of fixing everything and shooting rainbows from his hands and remaking the Middle East into a land of magic and unicorn giggles is not going to happen.

    It’s like Lucy and Charlie Brown with the football, except with blaming Republicans.

  22. Hahahaha, “Win the future.” I forgot about that.

  23. I’ve already watched “Triumph of the Will” so no thanks.

  24. I am sure this SOTU address will send a thrill up the leg of every Obama Zombie out there.

  25. Well, he remains a rather limited, jumped-up, community organizer. What different would you expect of him?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.