The President “…shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”
That’s the only direction for what has become the yearly “State of the Union” speech to a joint session of Congress.
It’s supposed to be a report to Congress.
But it has become a report to the people thanks to TV.
And it’s less a report then a political speech.
We’re not picking on anyone, just pointing out the obvious.
Later today, President Barack Obama will step to the podium in the House of Representatives to deliver his 2013 State of the Union address.
If history is a guide, instead of the President setting his agenda for the year, the speech will be mostly a resume of what he has done.
It’s a display of partisanship in which half the room sits on its hands while the other side inevitably jumps to its feet to applaud.
There’s even been times where some members of Congress heckled the president.
And when it’s over the opposing party gets to deliver its rebuttal.
It’s become little more than an indoor rally for Washington’s permanent campaign.
Here’s one interesting suggestion someone made:
Congress agrees to consider and bring to a vote every major proposal put forth in the speech.
Never happen, of course, but interesting nevertheless.
While our nation’s first two presidents delivered their reports in person, Thomas Jefferson thought the practice too closely resembled a monarch’s speech from the throne and so began a practice of sending a written report instead.
Then, 100 years ago, the newly elected Woodrow Wilson changed it up by going before Congress in person to show that the president was “not a mere department of the government” but “a human being trying to cooperate with other human beings in a common service.”
But it’s all changed.
Theatrics and game-playing have dominated the speech in recent times.
Since President Ronald Reagan first pointed to a heroic young government employee named Lenny Skutnik, the speech has become a venue for bringing people from outside – whether deserving or not.
It makes for good television but hasn’t helped Congress as its approval remains at a historic low.
Back to that interesting idea –
Both parties should agree to bring the major proposals the president lists in his annual speech to a floor vote.
Of course, with a Democrat in the White House, Republicans would never agree to this.