State of the Union

The State of the Union Address: Kings on Parade

A tradition we could do without

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The White House claims that tonight's State of the Union address will be "untraditional." Like Scott Shackford, I doubt it'll be very different from past SOTUs, but even if it is, I'll be deeply surprised if it's different enough. As I've written before, the president's annual speech is a tradition we'd be better off without:

An untraditional approach
Columbia Pictures

Thomas Jefferson considered it "kingly" to deliver his State of the Union report as a speech, so he sent the Senate and the House some written comments instead. Woodrow Wilson, never reluctant to play king, brought back the speechifying in 1913, and the modern custom of addressing a joint session of Congress was born.

The state of the actual union has improved in many ways in the century since then, but State of the Union addresses have kept heading downhill. Calvin Coolidge reversed many of Wilson's kingly policies, eventually including the oral address; before then, though, he made the mistake of broadcasting it on the radio, expanding the crown's audience even further. FDR brought back the speech (and the broadcast), the show came to TV in the Truman years…[a]nd then, just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, Ronald Reagan added the element of singling out people to praise in the audience, thus seasoning the bland proceedings with the flavor of a high school assembly. I'm trying hard to think of a way the State of the Union tradition has improved since FDR, and all I can come up with is the invention of cable TV: Now at least there's something else to watch.

I'll be MSTing the speech on Twitter with the rest of the Reason crew; if you want to check out the spectacle tonight, you're invited to tune in to us too. But if you prefer to skip the whole thing and just skim the SOTU transcript tomorrow for traces of news, I won't blame you. Be the change we're waiting for.

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28 responses to “The State of the Union Address: Kings on Parade

  1. Ronald Reagan added the element of singling out people to praise in the audience

    Shout out to my homies, yo.

  2. I’ll be MSTing the speech

    We might be reaching a point where people don’t even know what this means.

    1. But it’s coming back! They started working on the new season last week!

      1. A kickstarter? It almost makes me want to return to the days of cigar smoking network execs choosing my programming for me.

        1. Well too bad, because we’re living in the libertarian moment and people are too busy circumventing the gatekeepers to even hear your wheezy kulturkampf complaints, much less give them a moment’s consideration.

          1. You know, gatekeepers had their place… who’s standing up for the gatekeepers?

            1. Gatekeepers Local 451.

  3. Progressive Hero Woodrow Wilson is truly a dark blight upon history. Sure, his effect here is minor compared to some of the other things he pulled, but fuck him.

  4. Is there some sort of speech thingy tonight or something?

    Can we please talk about Messikin drug induced ass sex instead?

    Ar at least David Bowie.

    1. How about this: the reason writers will post something original right after you do.

  5. It’s going to be done in a talk show format. That’s what Obama is angling for, post-presidency.

    1. Remember how there was serious talk about giving Bill Clinton a talk show?

  6. Just give up. Kevin Williamson did it much better:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/…..williamson

    1. Am I allowed to thoroughly enjoy reading (and agreeing with) Kevin Williamson, or does he not pass enough of the strict libertarian test?

      1. Here is another Williamson column on the SOTU where he refers to the current occupant of the Oval office as:

        “the current milk-livered clotpole”

        http://www.nationalreview.com/…..ublicanism

    2. His opener wins the contest:

      The annual State of the Union pageant is a hideous, dispiriting, ugly, monotonous, un-American, un-republican, anti-democratic, dreary, backward, monarchical, retch-inducing, depressing, shameful, crypto-imperial display of official self-aggrandizement and piteous toadying, a black Mass during which every unholy order of teacup totalitarian and cringing courtier gathers under the towering dome of a faux-Roman temple to listen to a speech with no content given by a man with no content, to rise and to be seated as is called for by the order of worship ? it is a wonder they have not started genuflecting ? with one wretched representative of their number squirreled away in some well-upholstered Washington hidey-hole in order to preserve the illusion that those gathered constitute a special class of humanity without whom we could not live. It’s the most nauseating display in American public life ? and I write that as someone who has just returned from a pornographers’ convention.

    3. The annual State of the Union pageant is a hideous, dispiriting, ugly, monotonous, un-American, un-republican, anti-democratic, dreary, backward, monarchical, retch-inducing, depressing, shameful, crypto-imperial display of official self-aggrandizement and piteous toadying, a black Mass during which every unholy order of teacup totalitarian and cringing courtier gathers under the towering dome of a faux-Roman temple to listen to a speech with no content given by a man with no content, to rise and to be seated as is called for by the order of worship ? it is a wonder they have not started genuflecting ? with one wretched representative of their number squirreled away in some well-upholstered Washington hidey-hole in order to preserve the illusion that those gathered constitute a special class of humanity without whom we could not live.

      I hope he stops beating around the bush and shines light on his real opinions on the SOTU later in the article.

    4. player boasting more than $32 million in lifetime earnings who has publicly affirmed his homosexuality. For this act of courage/oversharing, he is to be seated in the first lady’s box.

      Phrasing…

      1. seated in the first lady’s box.

        Wouldn’t that make him gayer?

    5. Mencken smiles down from the great chiropractor’s office in the sky.

    6. It is unbecoming of us as a people, and it has transformed the presidency into an office that can be truly attractive only to men who are unfit to hold it.

      We need more writing like this here.

  7. This State of the Union will be different, and here’s why.

    Rarely has the President of the United States used executive orders in such a purposeful and aggressive way to attack our fundamental rights under the Constitution. For Barack Obama, doing so isn’t just a means to an end–it’s an end in itself.

    Barack Obama hates the American people for being capitalist, racist, pro-gun rights, homophobic, etc., and he will do anything in his power (by way of executive orders or otherwise) to water down or hurt our Constitutional rights. In fact, Obama thinks his attacks on our Constitutional rights are justified–because he hates the American people for their flaws. As far as he’s concerned, hating the American people should be a prerequisite for office.

    If Obama has dodged lame duck status, it’s because of the threat he still poses to our rights–his willingness to attack our Constitutional rights through executive orders or using other means. That was the legitimate reason to vote for Romney–who wanted to see second term Obama, in all his self-righteous hatred of our freedom, no longer constrained for fear of not being reelected?

    Rarely has a virulent, Constitution hating, piece of shit President, like Barack Obama, tailored a State of the Union Address to map out how he plans to abuse us and our rights. He’s gonna screw us hard, and he wants to tell us all about it ahead of time–so that we’ll know we’re powerless to do anything to stop him.

  8. I agree with Republican donor Tom Steyer on how to make it unique

    “In a conference call with reporters, Steyer said the speech on Tuesday offered one of the last high-visibility moments for Obama to make his case to the American public for a transformation of the US energy and climate system…. make global warming central to the message of his last State of the Union address.”

    http://www.theguardian.com/us-…..tom-steyer

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