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The panelists on CNN were eager to hear the President deliver his sixth State of the Union address. The third-place cable news network chose commentators from across the American political spectrum, ranging from Obama’s former Special Advisor Van Jones to Obama’s former Press Secretary Jay Carney. (Obama’s unofficial debate coach Candy Crowley was unavailable.) Throughout the pre-game coverage CNN ran a countdown clock in the upper left corner, much like the on-screen visual used when MacGyver needed to defuse a bomb.
Despite the network’s desire to flesh out news stories for their already written “Obama’s back!” ledes, not even the President’s allies shared journalists’ excitement:
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg owes her colleagues Stephen Breyer and Anthony Kennedy some drinks. But maybe she should stick to a cup of coffee … spiked with Red Bull.
The pair sat flanking the 81-year-old justice during President Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night, and they did their level best to keep their obviously dozy colleague from totally nodding off — something she’s done during more than one such speech.
This year, Ginsburg, put up a strong fight against the urge to snooze through the SOTU, fiddling with her gloves (yeah, she often wears a black lace pair) and blinking to keep her eyes open. But when that wasn’t enough, it was Kennedy and Breyer to the rescue: Kennedy delivered a sharp elbow at one point to rouse her, and Breyer did the yeoman’s work, subtly nudging her at least eight times (we counted) and frequently flicking his gaze to check on her.
As a fellow victim of Tuesday’s SOTU, I speak for the entire audience when I say Je Suis Ginsberg.
The hour-plus drone seemed like a dance remix of his previous five addresses but with fewer beats per minute. “Let me be clear”… “top one percent”… “let’s work together”… “I’ll veto every Republican plan”… “and the middle class.” Obama seems to have replaced his speechwriting team with Microsoft Word macros.
The worst part for the President wasn’t the tired repetition, the pablum offered, or narcoleptic justices. It’s that almost no one bothered to watch:
President Barack Obama‘s 2015 State of the Union address drew the lowest television viewership for any such speech in the last 15 years, according to new data from Nielsen.
The president’s Tuesday address was watched by 31.7 million viewers across 12 broadcast and cable networks that carried the speech live, despite a two-week campaign style tour and a social media blitz to drum up interest.
That’s down from the 33.3 million viewers who tuned in to Mr. Obama’s State of the Union address last year, and the 52.4 million who watched him deliver a 2009 speech to a joint session of Congress early on in his presidency.
And it’s the second-smallest State of the Union audience since Nielsen started collecting the data in 1993. Only Bill Clinton‘s 2000 speech drew a smaller television audience than Mr. Obama’s this year, with about 31.5 million views.
The few who did watch already knew that Obama’s vague and deceptive proposals were dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled Congress he regularly demonizes. The President talks so often and in so many venues that his speeches have become oratorical Muzak. And viewers recognize that after each lofty speech, almost nothing he promises ever comes to fruition.
America, by and large, has tuned out. A bully pulpit doesn’t work if nobody’s in the pews.