“Five Keys to the State of the Union Address,” reads one headline, “What Obama Should Say at State of the Union,” reads another. From cable channels, to the opinion pages and across the tubes of the internet, the dominant babble, today, yesterday and tomorrow is the SOTU.
Provided for in the constitution in article 2, the state of the union address is among our most treasured and enduring annual exercises in political theater and pointless blather.
Article II. Section 3.
He shall 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; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.
In my reading of this section I fail to find the words “interminable and boring” but over the years those two terms have come to describe the event that has become a deeply entrenched tradition on the 3rd Wednesday in January.
Steeped in protocol, (the actual Latin word for bullshit) the President enters the great dome of our hallowed national chamber of public corruption, along the way receiving hugs, kisses, and handshakes from dozens of people who despise him. Every movement of all parties involved is meticulously scripted and choreographed as if the event were a royal wedding directed by the high priests of some obsessively constipated Druidic cult.
It wasn’t always this way. Although not required to report to congress in person, George Washington set the precedent by inflicting a speech. Taciturn by nature, John Adams’ address was less than 2000 words but Jefferson had the good grace and gentle mercy to deliver his address to the congress in writing. That method was deemed adequate by every subsequent president until Wilson resumed the inhumane practice of formal speechifying with which we are mutually afflicted every January.
As if the weather wasn’t insult enough.
Traditionally, the various members of the House and Senate are seated with members of their own party to better establish effective fields of fire should there be gun play. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Supreme Court are seated separately as an allusion to impartiality and protection from the occasional errant round.
This year some Republicans will be sitting among the Democrats and vice versa, watch for trouble at these locations like an arson investigator looking for accelerants.
These presidential diatribes generally run to twenty or thirty thousand words and are so carefully crafted by professional political wordsmiths as to be almost completely unblemished by the truth or risk of careless commitment to any particular lie.
I have to admit that after decades of experience with the annual SOTU, I watch with the TV remote clutched firmly in one hand and only refer to the speech when there is a commercial airing on the alternate channel I’ve chosen as a island of calm and sanity.
Tonight, TCM is running “Sons of the Desert” with Laurel and Hardy until 8:30 followed by “General Spanky,” an Our Gang comedy which offers an evening without commercials and, mercy of mercies, devoid of politicians.
I can read the text of the speech tomorrow and avoid the carefully posed head shaking, pursed lips and frowns of the opposition, the orgiastic applause and predictable fawning ovations of the faithful and the transparently fabricated mini dramas sprinkled like some rare and exotic spice throughout the proceedings by the media.
This time I think I’ll opt for the truth according to Hal Roach, Spanky, and Alfalfa.
If you watch the video above I think you’ll see that it won’t make much difference.
The Stasis Of Our State Of The Union Addresses (VIDEO)