I’m not entirely sure when I started to detest the State of the Union Address.
Probably sometime during Bill Clinton’s presidency.
Clinton, after all, gave the longest addresses. In 1995, it was 1 hour, 25 minutes. His last, in 2000, even longer, 1 hour, 28.
No surprise, right? But brutal.
Nobody should have to listen to anyone orate for that long. Unless the orator is revealing the meaning of life, a cure for cancer, or why it is that dried cereal sticks so strongly to breakfast bowls.
And the ungodly length of these self-aggrandizing, read-from-the-heart speeches isn’t the worst part.
The worst part is the incessant, inane standing and clapping by members of Congress, mostly (depending on the party of the president) from one side of the House chamber.
Trained seals. Somebody should throw them fish.
Last year’s speech is a good example. President Trump drew applause 110 times, including 70-plus standing ovations, eating up a total of nearly 30 minutes of your viewing pleasure while helping Trump grab third place in the long-speech race — 1 hour, 20 minutes.
Watch out, Bill. The Donald may surpass you yet.
(And, yes, I complained about SOUs when Obama was president.)
So I, for one, was grateful when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi canceled the State of the Union Address scheduled for Tuesday evening.
But it’s now in limbo. I wish it were canceled for good.
It would save money spent on security, spare us all yet another unnecessary Washington spectacle, and allow more time for Netflix.
Also, in the short run, nobody should have to look at members of Congress, most of whom (of course) continued collecting their $174,000 salaries while 800,000 other federal employees went without pay for more than a month.
At last count, the only Pennsylvanians (of our 20 in Washington) not taking pay were Democratic U.S. Reps. Dwight Evans and Mary Gay Scanlon, Republican U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick and John Joyce, and Democratic Sen. Bob Casey.
(And no cracks about those who rejected salaries still being overpaid.)
The image of members standing and cheering for whatever litany of self-promotion the current incumbent offers just after he and they failed to perform at the most basic level of service is an image America can do without.
But I’m not only talking short term. Let’s end the practice for good.
And I don’t want to hear that’s a horrible offense to the honored and sacred traditions of the nation.
More presidents (25) did not give SOU speeches than did. They gave written reports. Which meets the Constitution’s (Article II, Section 3) mandate that presidents “shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union.”
Nothing about a speech.
Yeah, George Washington gave one in 1790. But it was the shortest. And he was first, and deserving of special attention.
Shortly after, President Jefferson demurred on grounds such a speech was too much like a “speech from the throne,” unsuitable for a Democratic republic. He offered a written message. Every president for more than a century, until Woodrow Wilson, did the same.
And among the 25 who didn’t feel the need to grandstand and bloviate, three (Jefferson, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt) are, along with Washington, on Mount Rushmore. I’d like to think, in part, because of their SOU decisions.
As to the 45th president, well, everyone hears from him on the state of the union, and everything else, far more often than “from time to time.”
Maybe he should tweet his speech: “State of Union GREAT!! Except for Dems … World’s best economy … walls work … #WINNNG!!”
Otherwise, prepare for that pompous, if iconic, “Madam Speaker, the president of the United States.” Followed by applause and cloying members of Congress stretching out to grab TV time by touching the president as he strides to the podium.
Then, worse, another introduction, more applause, a too-long speech with little impact, likely forgotten in two days. All while, in the present case, Veep Mike Pence nods and claps and Speaker Pelosi rolls her eyes.