Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The State of the Union, 2008

No, I didn't listen to Mr Bush's speech last night. If I want to watch engrossing theater, I can wait for the next Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation.

The President is required by Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution to "...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." George Washington gave the first "State of the Union" speech on January 8, 1790; until the address delivered by Woodrow Wilson in 1913, subsequent presidents fulfilled this duty by sending a written report to Congress.

Regardless of how it's done - in person or by letter - the State of the Union report is an important Presidential duty. It directs him (or her) to tell the people how he views the world, what policies he intends to follow, and what direction he intends to take the nation. It is supposed to make the Chief Executive come out and explain to the American people what the government they elected is doing on their behalf.

Of course, as time has gone on, the State of the Union address ("SOTU" in government shorthand) has become less about information and direction and more about fluff and theater. From the introduction of the President by the Sergeant at Arms and the traditional walk down the aisle amid thunderous applause and cheers to the carefully choreographed language which leaves "applause spots" in the text, the State of the Union has become nothing more than an opportunity for political speechifying and a full-employment program for talking heads.

I read the transcript of Mr Bush's speech this morning and found myself utterly unimpressed. The last few paragraphs were the best, but were deprived of real meaning by the very actions of the Bush administration. This is what he said:

"The secret of our strength, the miracle of America, is that our greatness lies not in our government, but in the spirit and determination of our people. When the federal convention met in Philadelphia in 1787, our nation was bound by the Articles of Confederation which began with the words, "We the undersigned delegates." Constitution, he offered an important revision, and opened with words that changed the course of our nation and the history of the world: "We the people."
"By trusting the people, our founders wagered that a great and noble nation could be built on the liberty that resides in the hearts of all men and women. By trusting the people, succeeding generations transformed our fragile young democracy into the most powerful nation on earth and a beacon of hope for millions.
"And so long as we continue to trust the people, our nation will prosper, our liberty will be secure and the state of our union will remain strong."

Unfortunately, this President, and this Congress, don't trust the people.

And, sadly, the feeling is mutual.

You will derive your own lessons and message from the State of the Union address. I encourage you to read it and think about its meaning. Your duty as a citizen is to inform yourself about your government and the actions it takes in your name.

If the President and Congress can't or won't do their duty, at least you can do yours.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


P.S. - If you aren't overloaded on political campaign news yet, you may be interested in this editorial from last Sunday's Washington Post. It's the best summary of the major candidates I've seen yet, and worth your time in reading.



The Mistress of the Dark said...

I basically did a lot of name calling during the State Of The Onion. (Nope its not a union its an Onion) The Onion is in terrible shape and the only thing these idjits seem to want to do to help it is get a band-aid.


Amanda said...

Its interesting to know that you have a law that requires the president to do a report out. The original idea is great but the fluff you mention...not so great.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Good points there.

Serina Hope said...

Thanks for the link to the great article. You rock.