Instead of the president delivering the State of the Union, why not have him field questions from Congress instead?

posted at 4:01 pm on January 24, 2014 by Allahpundit

An eternal temptation given how tedious the SOTU has become, but I think it’s a bad idea. Even though I’m probably a minority of one in doing so.

What passes for our political dialogue — surrogates and talking heads — encourages little more than bluster. Direct questions to the president by elected representatives could do much to rekindle our democratic spirit. This wouldn’t need to be a circus: Disrupting the dignity of the event with flippant or ridiculous comments could lead to excoriation, as we have seen in the past. Remember that after he shouted “You lie” during Obama’s 2009 State of the Union, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) was rebuked by the House and apologized. In 2010, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito was criticized after mouthing “Not true” during the address. There have been stinging repercussions when audience members have strayed outside the bounds of decorum, leading us to believe that propriety would abide in a Q&A.

The president could open the State of the Union with a statement of no more than 10 minutes that, as before, would recognize national accomplishments of the past year and outline new initiatives. Then, the floor would be turned over to the vice president, in his role as president of the Senate, and the speaker of the House or the ranking minority leader. They would moderate together. Party leaders could select up to seven of their representatives to ask prepared questions, similar to the town hall format of some presidential debates. Every representative would be allowed to submit questions to party leaders, and some questions might be chosen at random.

Reading that, I thought of what Robert Gates says in his book about TV cameras having the same effect on members of Congress as a full moon does on werewolves. A “question time” segment between the executive and the legislature with ~30 million people watching would be the Super Bowl of grandstanding. It would be insufferable, start to finish — not as much as Obama droning through a speech ticking off items on the Democrats’ latest policy wishlist for 65 minutes, admittedly, but that’s the lowest of low bars to clear. The questions posed to O by his own party would, naturally, be softballs scripted by the White House to give him a chance to tee off. Questions posed by Republicans would necessarily be confrontational and accusatory lest the leadership be slammed for having blown a golden opportunity to embarrass Obama on national television. And the worst part is, nothing substantive would come out of the session. It’d be a fun little political gladiatorial spectacle (Ted Cruz versus Obama in the arena) but we’ve had those before and no one cares a day later. Remember the time early in his first term that Obama visited the House Republican retreat and fielded questions for awhile? Remember that health-care summit that the parties organized while ObamaCare was being debated, when Obama and Pelosi and Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan and a bunch of others sat down to run through their talking points? They’re good blog fodder but these things never lead to debate in any meaningful sense. They’re essentially an exchange of talking points. Who cares? If “more empty political theater!” is the answer, what’s the question?

Besides, it may be counterintuitive but I think the Q&A format benefits the president more than the current format does. In theory, the hour-long speech is more favorable to him because he gets to dictate the topics and give his view unchallenged. But that’s also what makes it boring and predictable; there’s a reason why fewer people tune in each year the longer his term wears on. If you want to make sure that O’s big moment next week goes nowhere politically, just wind him up and let him talk for awhile. Conversely, letting him parry questions from Republicans amid some WWE-ish “GOP vs. Democrats” media hype gives him a spotlight to show the public that he can answer even the toughest challenges from his opponents. Whether his answers are compelling or correct is beside the point; the vast oceans of low-information voters who watch the SOTU out of curiosity and then barely think about politics for the rest of the year won’t be able to tell. All they’ll know is that O looks smart in being able to cough up some talking points on any subject the minority party throws at him, and because of the nature of the format, he’ll end up having the last word. Realizing that, the GOP would have to shift its question strategy from getting into the weeds with Obama on a particular subject like ObamaCare to ticking off items on its list of Obama scandals purely in the interest of raising public awareness about them. There’d be an ObamaCare question, a question about long-term unemployment, a question about Benghazi, a question about the IRS, etc etc. What the questions dealt with specifically would be far less important to GOP spin doctors than simply raising the topic to pique low-information voters’ curiosity. And so, predictably, both sides would end up talking past each other in order to use the event for talking-points camera time. Meh.

Exit question: Why not do away with a formal address for the SOTU and just have O issue a written statement instead?


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I’d rather see something like this in the House. Imagine the crying man having to take tough questions from his own caucus.

Kafir on January 24, 2014 at 4:03 PM

Exit question: Why not do away with a formal address for the SOTU and just have O issue a written statement instead?

As it was originally done? Yes, please do. Why the country has to have what amounts to a campaign speech every January I have no clue.

Rocks on January 24, 2014 at 4:04 PM

why not have him field questions from Congress instead

Ummmm . . . cause the only way that would work is if Obimbo gave them the questions in advance. Or perhaps if there was a pause long enough for someone to type “his” answer into the TOTUS.

SoRight on January 24, 2014 at 4:04 PM

Exit question: Why not do away with a formal address for the SOTU and just have O issue a written statement instead?

No, need more Wilson moments.

Besides, TV and internet media have displaced printed anything. It would make the president appear unwilling to show his face, and O can’t resist camera time.

nobar on January 24, 2014 at 4:05 PM

How about a dunking booth full of excrement?

viking01 on January 24, 2014 at 4:05 PM

Nah, just trot out the Boy King and let the media give him a tongue bath on national TV. Save them some time.

HumpBot Salvation on January 24, 2014 at 4:05 PM

He made that mistake once…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBAXEus6jXY&feature=youtube_gdata_player

wolly4321 on January 24, 2014 at 4:07 PM

Exit question: Why not do away with a formal address for the SOTU and just have O issue a written statement instead?

And give up all that free TV time? Not going to happen.

Fenris on January 24, 2014 at 4:08 PM

Instead of a single “you lie”, how about one in unison….

hillsoftx on January 24, 2014 at 4:09 PM

Waterboarding with dumpster juice?

viking01 on January 24, 2014 at 4:09 PM

Remember that after he shouted “You lie” during Obama’s 2009 State of the Union, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) was rebuked by the House and apologized.

Just for the record, the Washington Compost is wrong here. Joe Wilson shouted “You lie” not at a SOTU, but at a September 2009 Joint Session of Congress that Obama called to run his mouth about health care.

TarheelBen on January 24, 2014 at 4:11 PM

If I want to assess the SOTU, I’ll both walk the streets of my hamlet, talk to folks, and observe many things as I travel for work across this once great nation.

The last thing I will do is watch or read any statement by BHO, who is in perpetual “campaigning and framing” mode, and is not in the business of solving anything real.

Difficultas_Est_Imperium on January 24, 2014 at 4:12 PM

Go back to the original written statement and quit giving ANY potus a free 1/2 hour commercial every January…

Tim Zank on January 24, 2014 at 4:12 PM

I plan on watching it. Historic.(bad history)

The sonnuvabeeatch is going to go full commie this time. kickoff for Nov.

wolly4321 on January 24, 2014 at 4:13 PM

How about Thunderdome? 600 enter, no one leaves.

Erich66 on January 24, 2014 at 4:16 PM

I have no intention of watching The State Of Confusion speech…

sandee on January 24, 2014 at 4:17 PM

I’d rather see the (R)s play Obama bull$hit bingo. The excitement would build when someone just needs a ‘some say’ or a ‘let me be clear’ to win.

CitizenEgg on January 24, 2014 at 4:17 PM

The Prime Minister in England does that…it’s a hoot to watch the members try to skewer the PM, Thatcher was at her best.

right2bright on January 24, 2014 at 4:18 PM

No, AP, you’re not a minority of one. Read this from the headlines earlier and frankly, what difference does it make to whom he lies? It’s all BS whether he’s reading it from his prepared text or filibustering off-the-cuff.

BKeyser on January 24, 2014 at 4:19 PM

Exit answer: Why not have skippy answer questions from a special prosecutor, instead?

locomotivebreath1901 on January 24, 2014 at 4:21 PM

Someone please, gag him and throw him in a closet.

Akzed on January 24, 2014 at 4:21 PM

He made that mistake once…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBAXEus6jXY&feature=youtube_gdata_player

wolly4321 on January 24, 2014 at 4:07 PM

Amazing how his insufferable narcissistic BS act hasn’t changed one iota in 4 years.

deadrody on January 24, 2014 at 4:24 PM

Barack Obama is a stuttering clusterf*@k of a miserable failure.

Good Lt on January 24, 2014 at 4:25 PM

Instead of the president delivering the State of the Union, why not have him field questions from Congress instead?

and after they have asked their questions, they be escorted out by Holder’s hoodlums and knocked out by Black panthers, right ?
yaknow like that other Hussein, Saddam used to do ?

burrata on January 24, 2014 at 4:26 PM

How about the president just send a letter.

gwelf on January 24, 2014 at 4:27 PM

I would endorse it under two conditions:

1. No one gets a teleprompter, and
2. Four drink minimum for the speakers before they start talking.

A little lowered inhibition might get rid of the veneer of BS every politician comes with these days. We might even get a few “I love you man”s in there. Bi-partisanship finally! Until, they wake up the next day to see the aisles they crossed the night before…

Meric1837 on January 24, 2014 at 4:30 PM

Disrupting the dignity of the event (LOL) with flippant or ridiculous truthful comments… (Rep. Joe Wilson) shouted “You lie” during Obama’s 2009 State of the Union… In 2010, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito mouth(ed) “Not true” during the address.

The only reasons I might watch…

Fallon on January 24, 2014 at 4:32 PM

Exit question: Why not do away with a formal address for the SOTU and just have O issue a written statement instead?

But this year’s drinking game is going to be about “income inequality.” Why do you want to interfere with my cirrhosis?

Democrat: Mr. President, which is your greater quality, your genius or your humility?

rbj on January 24, 2014 at 4:36 PM

I plan on watching it.

wolly4321 on January 24, 2014 at 4:13 PM

Meh. Your funeral, Seymore.

Lanceman on January 24, 2014 at 4:36 PM

I’d rather just see the entire Republican side get up and leave as soon as he starts talking.

bsinc1962 on January 24, 2014 at 4:40 PM

If he answers a question wrong, will he get tossed into the gorge of eternal peril? If so, I’m in.

Kafir on January 24, 2014 at 4:45 PM

The Prime Minister in England does that…it’s a hoot to watch the members try to skewer the PM, Thatcher was at her best.

right2bright on January 24, 2014 at 4:18 PM

I’ve watched that show, during Tony Blair’s time as PM, on C-SPAN. House of Commons Speaker Betty Boothroyd did her best to keep those MPs in order.

Bigfoot on January 24, 2014 at 4:47 PM

I’d rather just see the entire Republican side get up and leave as soon as he starts talking.

bsinc1962 on January 24, 2014 at 4:40 PM

Time for a good old fashioned shunning.

Fallon on January 24, 2014 at 4:47 PM

Because Obama is not going to miss an opportunity to lecture us on camera.

SayNo2-O on January 24, 2014 at 4:51 PM

or we can all ignore the sotu speech…

dmacleo on January 24, 2014 at 5:10 PM

How about we hook him up to a lie detector. Then let him answer questions.

bbordwell on January 24, 2014 at 5:12 PM

Exit question: Why not do away with a formal address for the SOTU and just have O issue a written statement instead?

You know, I read this earlier and thought maybe it’s not a bad idea. But for the reasons you laid out, you’re right, it’s probably a really bad idea.

I’m all for doing away with the SOTU address, it’s all a bunch of snake oil drivel anyway.

scalleywag on January 24, 2014 at 5:12 PM

We can pretty much predict what he’ll say anyway. Same as it ever was.

scalleywag on January 24, 2014 at 5:14 PM

Obama wouldn’t deign to take questions from congress. This is the guy who brags about bypassing congress. “I have a pen and I have a phone.”

Obama clearly believes he isn’t answerable to anyone,not congress and certainly least of all the people of this nation.

thatsafactjack on January 24, 2014 at 5:18 PM

Kafir on January 24, 2014 at 4:45 PM

Why not? He’s already covered himself in shame.

thatsafactjack on January 24, 2014 at 5:19 PM

I love the idea of questions, but I would settle for the Chief Justice placing Obama under oath to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

meci on January 24, 2014 at 5:25 PM

I have come to the conclusion it does not matter who asks an uncomfortable question this administration will not answer them so at this point what difference does it make.

Grunt on January 24, 2014 at 5:39 PM

I think this would end poorly.

However I would like to have someone sitting there doing instant fact checking.
Maybe we can get Maury Povich to do it. “You said Obamacare is great…a look at reality proved this to be false.”

irishgladiator63 on January 24, 2014 at 5:41 PM

With the level of truth O’ delivers in his lectures we might as well be honest and rename it the State of the “Onion” Address.

antipc on January 24, 2014 at 6:40 PM

why not have him field questions from Congress instead

Because he’ll take 2 hours to dance around the FIRST question.

GarandFan on January 24, 2014 at 6:42 PM

Because he’ll take 2 hours to dance around the FIRST question.

GarandFan on January 24, 2014 at 6:42 PM

Put up a 30 second response clock, sort of like the shot clock in basketball.

CurtZHP on January 24, 2014 at 6:48 PM

Probably because it would go something like this – “I have no knowledge of that”, “I wasn’t informed of that”, “I haven’t read the papers today so I can’t speak to that”, etc, etc. ad nauseum.

ghostwalker1 on January 24, 2014 at 7:18 PM

How about we hook him up to a lie detector. Then let him answer questions.

bbordwell on January 24, 2014 at 5:12 PM

I think we should waterboard him.

TarheelBen on January 24, 2014 at 7:40 PM

Who would have thought of this day of audio & video files, someone so corrupt get away with all this

RdLake on January 24, 2014 at 10:07 PM

How about Congress just sit there and heckle him with “YOU LIE” for 90 minutes?

Works here in Possum Holler.

PappyD61 on January 24, 2014 at 10:37 PM

Nah, you don’t want a Question Time: I tried to listen to one of those back when the Red Headed Bogan (translation, redneck) was PM of Australia, and it was nothing more than so much blathering and political jousting. Ugh.

Wanderlust on January 24, 2014 at 10:43 PM