Sunday, January 25, 2015

Pompous Circumstance

Just last week we had the traditional "Let's Stand and Clap at Everything the President Says" speech, a.k.a. "The State of the Union". Unlike the other talking heads on FOX, MSNBC, CNN, etc., I'm not going to give you my opinions on the particular things the President said. I can't. I didn't watch the speech. I had no intention of watching it. And no, I'm not an Obama-basher (okay, maybe I am, but not at the moment); I didn't watch them even when G.W. Bush was giving them. I have only caught pieces of the speech given by different Presidents over the years, only because they seem to take over every network channel during them (I love you, Netflix!)

The reason I don't watch it is because the founding fathers of our country did not intend it that way:

Article 2, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution says, "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;"

(Side note: What the hell is it with the capitalized words in the middle of that thing?)

As it states, the President is supposed to give Congress information of the state of the union, along with recommendations. George Washington delivered the first before a joint session of Congress in 1790. Thomas Jefferson thought it too similar to a speech that the King of England would give and stopped the practice (you know, not presidential, but monarchical). From that time on, it was given as a written report to Congress - read by a clerk. I think it was read out loud by a clerk because Xerox hadn't given us the copier yet.

Woodrow Wilson was the first to give the report orally to Congress since Jefferson stopped it. Most Presidents have given the report in writing; Jimmy Carter was the last to do this. Calvin Coolidge gave the report (now a "speech") on radio for the first time in 1923. And, since most Presidents like to outdo each other (how many Presidential Libraries do we need, anyway?), Harry S. Truman gave it for the first time on television in 1947.

Here's where I think it has gone astray. No longer is the State of the Union a report given to CONGRESS, but a political speech in front of the American people. As Congress now stands up and applauds every time the President takes a breath, you can almost hear Thomas Jefferson saying, "I told you so!"

The speech is stupid for another reason: why, oh why, would you have the majority of your government officials in one building at one time? There are all kinds of methodologies put in place to make sure that not everyone is in attendance, but still! Why would one risk it? Hasn't anyone seen "Mars Attacks" or "Independence Day"?!?

All kidding aside, there are plenty of opportunities during the year for the President to address the American people. This should NOT be one of them. Instead of a serious report, it is an opportunity for grandstanding and occasional abuse (of the other Branches). Go back to giving it in writing. Hell, even email it!

Nothing is worse than watching the State of the Union. Outside of the rebuttals that follow, that is.

© Emittravel 2015

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