Let’s face it: These SOTU spectacles are a national embarrassment

posted at 5:21 pm on January 12, 2016 by Ed Morrissey

Readers at Hot Air probably already know my feelings about the State of the Union tradition, which I value less than the game-show debate formats used in primaries for both parties. In the debates, at least there are opportunities for airing of different viewpoints and dissent on substance. The SOTU spectacle is meaningless theater, and one which actually cuts against the intent of Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution. The founders intended that requirement to serve as a reminder that the executive was coequal to the legislature and answerable for the governance of the nation. It has become, as I write in my column for The Week, “a grotesque parody of monarchical excess.”

The fault for this lies with Congress, not the presidents, who know a great opportunity to look regal when it’s handed to them. Perhaps after this last SOTU address from Obama, Congress can reconceive the event as a worthy debate on the president’s agenda for the next year and his performance in the past year, rather than a lecture punctuated by obsequious and insincere ovations. In my column, I explain how that would work:

In the past week, we have seen how well this might work. President Obama and CNN partnered on a town hall event on the subject of gun rights and gun control. Most expected little from the exchange, but several participants — including Taya Kyle, whose former Navy SEAL husband Chris was murdered by a troubled vet with a firearm — challenged Obama on both his policies and his rhetoric. Kimberly Corban, a rape survivor, also strongly defended her right to defend herself and her family with lethal force if necessary. The event may not have changed any minds, but it showed that American citizens consider themselves the equal of their president, not subordinate. After a long string of SOTU obsequiousness, it was at the very least a refreshing change.

Congress could re-establish its coequal dignity by inviting the president to a debate. Instead of the normal two-way division of time, the presider could offer a three-way split, with the president and both parties getting equal time. The president might get 10 minutes to discuss an agenda item — in this case, let’s use gun control. Then the party managers would each get 10 minutes to divide as they see fit to question the president and give him the option to answer. The same 30-minute commitment could be made for other issues — as many as a president wants to debate, or as few.

This could have many salutary benefits. First, it would remind both branches of their equal status and responsibilities under the Constitution. That would restore the actual purpose of the State of the Union. It would also transform the SOTU event from a one-sided lecture to an informative exchange, which might tend to engage voters rather than repel them. It would allow for a much fairer airing of issues, and perhaps even occasionally spark moments of agreement. It would also eliminate the need for the clunky “response speech” that has routinely been even more pointless than the State of the Union speech itself.

Or, perhaps presidents will feel much less inclined to show up for a debate rather than be given a primetime slot for an overblown campaign speech. They might opt instead for the Jefferson option — providing a report on the state of the union in writing for Congress to debate amongst themselves. That could be the best outcome of all.

The president has the White House for all the one-sided speeches he desires to give. In Congress, the people’s representatives should have equal standing and the opportunity to engage the chief executive. Future presidents who don’t wish to engage on politics can send over written reports, and perhaps that might give voters a good sense of who does and doesn’t belong in the Oval Office.


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Comments

I’m not watching it, the speech is worth nothing, especially coming from someone that is absolutely worth nothing.

Andy__B on January 12, 2016 at 5:26 PM

Let’s face it: These SOTU spectacles OBAMA SPEECHES are a national embarrassment

FIFY.

LashRambo on January 12, 2016 at 5:26 PM

NOT going to watch.. It’s the “sssss” factor.

Trying to pass as white whilst fomenting division, dereision and unrest from his black side.

FUBO.

Key West Reader on January 12, 2016 at 5:27 PM

Who plans to watch this????!!!!! Not me

karenhasfreedom on January 12, 2016 at 5:29 PM

In the post 9/11 era, it is beyond stupid to put the entire government of the USA in a single room for a pointless speech. It is the juiciest target that terrorists could ever dream of. When the jihadis finally get nukes, the SOTU is going to be the first thing they hit.

quraina on January 12, 2016 at 5:29 PM

Boycott it.

artist on January 12, 2016 at 5:29 PM

The SOTU fests REALLY SUCK. Hope Trump gives from the Oval and says “You that want to work, get to work. You that don’t, YOU’RE FIRED. Good night”

rik on January 12, 2016 at 5:30 PM

I never saw this post when Bush was president.

weedisgood on January 12, 2016 at 5:30 PM

Trump has a rally that is streaming at 7pm EST tonite. Will watch that.

karenhasfreedom on January 12, 2016 at 5:30 PM

Watch lying politicians applaud a lying politician….???

I’d rather:

Eat pig excrement.

Have a colonoscopy.

Attend a Hillary rally.

Bathe in Monica Lewinskys thigh sweat.

Cuddle with Michelle Obama.

Vote for single payer Big gov loving Donald Trump.

So no….not watching.

PappyD61 on January 12, 2016 at 5:31 PM

British Parliament has something called – Questions to the Prime Minister, held weekly when Commons is in session and where MP can ask questions of the PM.

There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have something similar here for an regular exchange of questions and answers between Members of Congress and the President. Not once a year, and perhaps not as frequent as weekly – but every other week for 90 minutes?

The real challenges with this would be with how to prevent a President under question from doing what is standard operating procedure for Obama: filibustering in order to limit the number of questions asked.

Athos on January 12, 2016 at 5:32 PM

Obama is a national embarrassment

skanter on January 12, 2016 at 5:33 PM

how ’bout an oldie but goodie?

“You LIE!!!111!!!”

DanMan on January 12, 2016 at 5:33 PM

Let’s face it: These SOTU spectacles are….

The vanity show of a mental and rhetorical midget, before a chamber full of trained seals, highlighting invited guests of dubious distinctions.

MichaelGabriel on January 12, 2016 at 5:36 PM

I never saw this post when Bush was president.

weedisgood on January 12, 2016 at 5:30 PM

You don’t see a lot of things.

RickB on January 12, 2016 at 5:36 PM

Sorry, I’m having acupuncture done on my pupils.

I never saw this post when Bush was president.

weedisgood on January 12, 2016 at 5:30 PM

You’re in charge of the I/me count tonight, don’t eff it up.

antipc on January 12, 2016 at 5:37 PM

I like Ed’s idea for a televised “debate” or “discussion” with the leaders of Congress, but it would never work in a million years with a president like Obama, or Mrs. Clinton, or Chris Christie, or Donald Trump, and so on. It would take a person of real discipline, patience, and strength of character.

Aizen on January 12, 2016 at 5:37 PM

Have NO intention of watching this SOB and listen to his lies.
Bet he won’t mention the 10 US Sailors taken into custody by Iran?

Delsa on January 12, 2016 at 5:45 PM

obsequious

obedient or attentive to an excessive or servile degree:
“they were served by obsequious waiters”

Magicjava on January 12, 2016 at 5:47 PM

I enjoy his entrance to the affair. All the congressional puppies clamoring to lick his hand and have their bellies scratched on national TV.
Keep a sharp eye out for Sheila Jackson Lee in her traditional flaming red dress. She’ll be firmly planted in an aisle seat for maximum exposure, gamely fighting off all those who would rob her of her big moment.

butch on January 12, 2016 at 5:50 PM

Obama hasn’t been allowed on our TV for 7 years.

“Let’s face it: These SOTU spectacles are a national embarrassment”

This one could be the worst yet. I’ll wait to hear from the brave.

Meremortal on January 12, 2016 at 5:53 PM

The real challenges with this would be with how to prevent a President under question from doing what is standard operating procedure for Obama: filibustering in order to limit the number of questions asked.

Athos on January 12, 2016 at 5:32 PM

Put a time limit on his answers and cut him off.

butch on January 12, 2016 at 5:53 PM

Turn off his microphone. Which is worst offense one can force onto a libtard.

Or, have 2-3 dozen sidebar conversations going on all through his speech.

BobMbx on January 12, 2016 at 5:56 PM

Hey Ed, might want to do some ban hammering in the Iranian post thread. Marcus called for the death of US Navy captives.

portlandon on January 12, 2016 at 5:57 PM

I never saw this post when Bush was president.

weedisgood on January 12, 2016 at 5:30 PM

Bush didn’t talk endlessly about himself and how smarter than everyone else he was. Nor did he recycle his speeches for 8 years.

BobMbx on January 12, 2016 at 5:58 PM

I never saw this post when Bush was president.

weedisgood on January 12, 2016 at 5:30 PM

Doper with long term memory. Must bean app

rik on January 12, 2016 at 5:58 PM

Must be an app. My apologies

rik on January 12, 2016 at 5:59 PM

I think we need a pool. Who can gues the number of times he’ll refer to himself in tonight’s extravaganza?

butch on January 12, 2016 at 6:03 PM

I am looking forward to seeing Paul Ryan lick the shoes of Dogeater … and Joe Biden molest Kirsten Gillibrand, but I will miss seeing Pelosi in dominatrix gear putting Boehner over her knee and spanking his bare butt with a leather crop.

Bread and Circuses for us rubes.

Nomennovum on January 12, 2016 at 6:06 PM

Readers at Hot Air probably already know my feelings about the State of the Union tradition, which I value less than the game-show debate formats used in primaries for both parties. In the debates, at least there are opportunities for airing of different viewpoints and dissent on substance.
=============================================

Rumour has it, it’ll be Hopey’s most political
speechy yet!!!

canopfor on January 12, 2016 at 6:14 PM

The Republican debates are a national embarrassment, too.

TBSchemer on January 12, 2016 at 6:27 PM

any congress critter who stands there and claps for that anti-American POS deserves to be Cantorized in the next primary.

Senator Philip Bluster on January 12, 2016 at 6:32 PM

Let’s face it: These SOTU spectacles OBAMA SPEECHES are a GLOBAL embarrassment

Goodie on January 12, 2016 at 6:32 PM

I haven’t seen one since Jan 2002, when arch warmonger Bush lied his ass off about Saddam wanting to attack us with imaginary WMDs.

cimbri on January 12, 2016 at 6:32 PM

They are a charade.

Schadenfreude on January 12, 2016 at 6:37 PM

The Iranians know how to embarrass obama.

Schadenfreude on January 12, 2016 at 6:37 PM

The Republican debates are a national embarrassment, too.

TBSchemer on January 12, 2016 at 6:27 PM

Why? Because they’re held in primetime instead of late on Saturday night or some such?

butch on January 12, 2016 at 6:38 PM

Bringing extra ammo to range tonight.

Goodie on January 12, 2016 at 6:38 PM

The Iranians know how to embarrass obama.

Schadenfreude on January 12, 2016 at 6:37 PM

Yep. The timing on this is just precious.

butch on January 12, 2016 at 6:39 PM

Why? Because they’re held in primetime instead of late on Saturday night or some such?

butch on January 12, 2016 at 6:38 PM

Because every single one of them consists of 7-9 people talking about new big government programs they want to implement, followed by Rand Paul begging viewers to care about the Constitution and individual liberty.

Now that Fox Business is excluding Rand Paul from Thursday’s debate, the whole thing is just going to be a competition to see who can bring us into totalitarianism the fastest.

TBSchemer on January 12, 2016 at 6:45 PM

Simple rule: ban teleprompters. Either memorize it or read it off a paper copy.

Marcola on January 12, 2016 at 6:48 PM

I’m in for 97 on the I/me/my count.

HE will review his great triumphs over the imaginary problem of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming.

He was going to talk about creating peace in our time by giving Iran the ability to develop nuclear weapons. Speechwriters may be doing frantic rewrites as I type.

I wonder if he’ll talk about his (negative) progress in the war on the terrorism that cannot be named.

Other topics: the record numbers of Americans tout of the work force. the decline in race relations, the 100 people shot in Chicago the first 10 days of this year (I’m sure his restrictions on legal gun owners will have a big impact on that), how his economic policies have made income inequality worse, how Obamacare has made healthcare less affordable for the majority of Americans.

He really has quite a list of negative accomplishments.

talkingpoints on January 12, 2016 at 6:49 PM

The Iranians know how to embarrass obama.

Schadenfreude on January 12, 2016 at 6:37 PM

The economy is working on it too.

Too bad Trump is too stupid and fascist to actually propose free market solutions to the coming crisis, right?

TBSchemer on January 12, 2016 at 6:51 PM

I don’t think they have the brass to do it, but it would be awesome if the majority of the Republicans did not show. Leadership has to.

talkingpoints on January 12, 2016 at 6:52 PM

The last time I watched, Obama’s first, it looked like a freak show. Both sides, including the SC looked like impaired clowns. It was unsettling.

Mr. Arrogant on January 12, 2016 at 6:58 PM

Zero says Trump’s run is like a SNL skit = OK

Bill Clinton says Zero’s run is fairytale= RACIST

rik on January 12, 2016 at 7:02 PM

I like Ed’s idea.
But it’s far too sane to get anywhere.

AesopFan on January 12, 2016 at 7:24 PM

I have to admit the clip I watched JOE WILSON say “You Lie” was awesome.

#truth

PappyD61 on January 12, 2016 at 7:39 PM

For whatever reason, Ed M. carries a lot of water for the Republican establishment in his editorials, given plenty of evidence in recent year(s) against doing so.

In this case, he appears to be subtly dropping a cue to other like-minded Republicans like him, which is: now that Trump appears to have a good chance of winning the office this November, now is the time to remove traditions and procedures that Trump would use to set his agenda.

Learn to read between the lines, folks, Ed is not that hard to understand.

FrankT on January 12, 2016 at 7:49 PM

So it’s come to this?

Tonight on the White House website there will be a first ever Station of the Union address pre-show. It begins at 8pm and is hosted by Terrence Jenkins on the White House website. There may be an audience since it’s coming “straight from the theater at the Executive Office Building.”

According to a press release, Jenkins, “an acclaimed author,”… has been a “co-host of BET’s hit show 106 & Park and more recently as the co-anchor of E! NEWS with Giuliana Rancic. Up next, Jenkins will STAR opposite Paula Patton in THE PERFECT MATCH, in theaters nationwide on March 11th.”

Musical guests include rapper Wale, from Washington DC.

White House BET Pre-Show With Rap Music

celt on January 12, 2016 at 7:58 PM

It’s really hard for me to watch the SOTU. It cuts across both Democratic and Republican Presidents. The reason is that as Ed said above, it’s mostly theater, and I think this all started towards the end of Reagan’s Presidency. Who’s going to stand and clap? Who’s going to clap but not stand? For what issues are they going to stand and clap versus just clap versus just sitting there silently?

It’s ridiculous, and it takes SO LONG for it all to finish. Every year I try, but then I give up.

Honestly, if I were President, before the SOTU, I’d ask both parties to just sit on their hands and shut up, and let me deliver my speech.

asc85 on January 12, 2016 at 8:06 PM

Won’t be watching. I have a job interview tomorrow and I don’t want to go to bed pissed off. I’ve lost TWO jobs in the healthcare industry in the last 24 months. I have no interest in what this destroyer has to say.

ladyingray on January 12, 2016 at 8:25 PM

This President is all politics all the time, so I expect nothing positive from him except lies, damn lies, and statistics.

bflat879 on January 12, 2016 at 8:26 PM

weedisgood on January 12, 2016 at 5:30 PM

I watched one of Bill in the mid 90’s, after I started the decade realizing they were a waste of time. That was the last one I ever watched. I would prefer a letter. No modern media marketing anymore. I hate all of it. The SOTU is the most worthless event in modern politics, followed very closely by what goes for a campaign debate.

Disgusting. Bread and circus. That is all it is. And not a damn thing we can do about it. If other countries weren’t screwed up worse than us we would be in real trouble.

Zomcon JEM on January 13, 2016 at 9:18 AM