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That may have been the dullest speech from President Obama I have ever heard; certainly, the worst since his last State of the Union. Like his policies and ideas, his rhetoric has lost its luster. I used to watch his speeches and get nervous about how his smooth-talking and charming style could sell the country on his destructive, big government agenda. I don’t feel that worry anymore. When I watch his speeches now, I feel bored and unstimulated. Perhaps he’s gone to the well too many times. Perhaps the “hope and change” optimism is finally gone. All I hear are the same old ideas, talking points, and rhetorical devices we’ve heard repeated ad nauseam throughout his presidency.
I tuned in with the intention of finding material to counter and assumptions to challenge. Honestly, though, I found myself so uninterested while watching that I gave up on whatever policy discussion I was aiming for. The only observation worth mentioning is how utterly pointless the State of the Union is.
The whole event has devolved into a pep rally. It’s embarrassing to watch old men and women — elected officials in the highest offices of the land, no less — cheer like teenagers at the mere mention of a topic. Not a solution to a problem or a method of implementing a policy mind you, just a mere reference to an issue is enough to earn raucous cheering and a standing ovation. It makes me wonder who this is event is for. Well, no it doesn’t. It’s obvious. The president stands and delivers a shallow speech and is inundated with applause after every phrase. We know exactly who this event is for.
Honestly, I’m surprised that none of our previous chief executives turned it into a bi-annual tradition. Why hold back to just one a year? It’s nothing more than a political rally for the man with the microphone. Why limit the exposure?
To the supposed point of the speech, is there any person less qualified to expound upon the state of things in the nation than the person most insulated from its problems? The king stands before the court and asks his subjects whether it’s good to be a peasant in his kingdom. Gosh, I wonder what he’ll say? This is an American democratic republic: We do not need the political ruling class to describe our problems to us. If anything, the flow of information should go in the opposite direction. Our elected leaders should be hearing from us how the nation is doing, not the other way around.
All that is to say the State of the Union, absent the context of some major national crisis, is an overblown and mostly worthless event. No one has written a more incisive description or pitiless criticism of the SOTU than National Review’s Kevin Williamson, whose words I leave you with:
The annual State of the Union pageant is a hideous, dispiriting, ugly, monotonous, un-American, un-republican, anti-democratic, dreary, backward, monarchical, retch-inducing, depressing, shameful, crypto-imperial display of official self-aggrandizement and piteous toadying, a black Mass during which every unholy order of teacup totalitarian and cringing courtier gathers under the towering dome of a faux-Roman temple to listen to a speech with no content given by a man with no content, to rise and to be seated as is called for by the order of worship — it is a wonder they have not started genuflecting — with one wretched representative of their number squirreled away in some well-upholstered Washington hidey-hole in order to preserve the illusion that those gathered constitute a special class of humanity without whom we could not live.
It’s the most nauseating display in American public life — and I write that as someone who has just returned from a pornographers’ convention.