Tuesday, January 31, 2006

State of the Union Speech Sure to Bore

I’m not looking forward to President Bush’s State of the Union address. Why should I be excited about an overblown speech where purple-prose rhetoric sinks into laundry-list recitation, all of it incessantly punctuated with sports-yard applause from one side and sour faces from the other?

There’s always some common American strategically positioned in the balcony—their life story used to illustrate the necessity or success of some massive federal program. There’s always “new ideas” that have been carefully test-marketed and vetted. And there’s always some bipartisan moment where the entire Congress rises in applause, just to show us citizens back home that they really aren’t a bunch of children incapable of getting along.

It’s scripted, it’s predictable and it’s bad television.

In this mass-media age the President routinely fulfills his Constitutional duty to “from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” The President speaks constantly and his staff is in daily contact with the staffs of every congressman. It’s not 1800 anymore.

But the State of the Union is a tradition and traditions are important. So if we feel we have to keep the speech, maybe we can change it up a bit. Instead of the President standing on a podium as the Vice President and Speaker of the House try not to nod off behind him, how about turning it into an open forum where a bipartisan group from each congressional delegation may rise to ask a few questions. That too would have its tedium at times, but it would, on the whole, be a lot more interesting and a lot more useful to the Congress and the nation.

The President might not like it. But it would make the event worth watching again.


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