I watched President Obama’s State of the Union address last night, and like a lot of political observers, I thought he struck the appropriate tone with his remarks, given the recent tragedy in Tucson and the changed legislative environment he now faces in Congress. I was also relieved that Obama eschewed the standard laundry list of presidential initiatives (which usually have little chance of passage) in favor of a more thematic approach to the speech. Given the current fiscal reality of deficit and debt, a long presidential wish list would not have been particularly well received anyway.
I must say that with each passing year these State of the Union addresses hold less allure for me than they once did. I’ve thought about why this might be the case, and my sense is that it has something to do with both the saturation coverage by the media, and the fact that presidents are now so frequently in the public eye that these special events no longer offer the same high profile drama. They are increasingly just another component of the White House’s multiple platform communications strategy, and in response opponents gird for the occasion with a predictable plethora of prebuttals and rebuttals.
Since the delivery of a speech by the president is not actually mandated by the Constitution, I would love to see the chief executive simply brief Congress on the state of the union (a duty which is constitutionally required) by instead submitting a formal letter to the legislative body. That alternative would have saved us the whole ridiculous prom night bipartisan seating storyline, which was unfortunately beaten into the ground along with every other aspect of the evening’s festivities.
Note: Back posting on Friday. -Dean

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