The United States Constitution identifies a specific responsibility of the head of the executive branch, the President, to report to the legislative branch his or her understanding as to the current state of the nation and recommend possible agendas for review and development. Article 2 Section 3 specific to the powers and responsibilities of the Executive branch, requires of the executive:
He shall from time to time give to the Congress information as to the State of the Union, and recommend to their consideration Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient
From the first President of the United States to the current one, the requirement has been taken on with variable sincerity. After Washington’s first address to the Congress in person, the tradition was converted to a report read indirectly by a designate to the Congress on the request of Thomas Jefferson, to avoid the appearance in Jefferson’s eyes of magisterial overtones, so committed was Jefferson to the concept of co-equal branches of government. Woodrow Wilson took back the role of personally delivering the speech in front of a joint session and ever since the event has taken on appearance of spectacle. The eventual presence of television did what nearly 200 years of Presidential speeches could not, warp the purpose of the president’s requirement to report to Congress into one in which he reported directly to the American people, with Congress, Judiciary, and assembled military figures and important guests the captive props for the President’s stage. The modern media have become willing accomplices in the elevation of the speech to theater, as it allowed them to create a dramatic venue. No one has bothered to note the damage done to the nation’s Framers original intent.
The President who may have begun the process of sticking a fork in the serious nature of an executive report was our first actor in chief, Ronald Reagan, who began to highlight personal stories in the speech by inviting guests who represented “American hero” props for the president’s agenda. Soon no president could be without identifying a “hero”, or seem to appear to be insensitive to the ‘average joe’s’ role in the American agenda. President Clinton took the speech to another level, converting the report into a never ending litany of self absorbed projects without any correlative agenda other than they all sprang from his disorganized wonk personality. Clinton’s state of the union speeches introduced America to the concept of speech as endurance contest, with members of Congress visibly falling asleep during the speech, including one specially poignant moment when his own wife Hillary nodded off.
President Obama has managed however in 2012 to be the first President to give a state of the union speech in which he never discussed the state of the union. Certainly the job of explaining your role in projecting an agenda that has led to 10% unemployment, 5 million fewer jobs then when he took office, a 5 Trillion dollar increase in the nation’s debt in three years, an empty energy plan based on undermining any form of energy development in cost effective, efficient and available fuel sources, and a myriad of foreign policy reversals is assuredly not easy. But the speech managed to score a perfect avoidance of any subjects that would address any of these pressing issues, instead becoming a platform for another campaign speech. The president even devised a new prop not thought of before, inviting Warren Buffet’s secretary to sit with the first lady and substituting the typical “American Hero” prop with instead an average “American Victim” that in its current tax policy, America has decided to screw, making her supposedly pay more taxes on a percentage basis than her billionaire boss Buffet.
And we were all asked to watch. It is part of the sham of the current American political process that the newspeak Orwell warned us about has penetrated the President’s duty to Congress. President Obama demands passage of a bill he just vetoed. President Obama expresses his willingness to drill for oil a week after killing the Keystone pipeline that would take such oil to refineries. President Obama decries the role of regulation in burdening job growth then describes one after another governmental process to “assure fairness”. President Obama talks of budgetary restraint in the greatest outpouring of national deficit spending in our nation’s history.
Is this the cornerstone of an agenda designed to advance America as envisioned by the Founders, or the creaky pablum of a politician who is no longer even aware of why this event, the State of the Union, exists in the first place? We are in the throes of a President who sits not astride history, but rather, has turned his back on it. Unfortunately he reflects an ever growing number of Americans who assume their bounty has come about because of all encompassing government, not as a result of any individual’s labors. If President Obama will not assess the state of the union as required by his oath as executive, I humbly will. Citizens, the State of the Union is bad, and its going to take a real awakening to stop all the theatrics, and get down to some real and lasting solutions. We need to recognize a sham when we see one confronting us, and note it rhymes with scam. Let’s use the Constitution to remove those who want to make a pretense of all that it stands for, with their every word and inaction.