“Killing” the SOTU

Well, the Kenyan Muslim Socialist Alinskyite Barack Obama has been accused of about every other bit of crime and malfeasance under the sun. So why not accuse him of “killing” the State of the Union Address? That’s the lurid suggestion in the headline of a Politico piece by Edward-Isaac Dovere.

Mess with the Republicans. Keep up momentum. Accept that it takes more than a speech in front of a joint session of Congress to get most Americans, and certainly much of the Washington establishment, to care anymore.

That’s the logic that led the White House to kill the State of the Union.

What this actually means is that the White House is not bothering to make the speech the exclusive vehicle for conveying the administration’s agenda for 2015. And while the Article II, Section III of the Constitution does require the president to “give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient,” it doesn’t require that he perform that duty in one big event, much less require that he protect the news value of said event, which seems to be what Obama is being accused of “killing.” Indeed, even though a State of the Union “report” quickly became traditional, it wasn’t a speech before Woodrow Wilson decided to make it one.

It would have screwed up the president’s timing on some initiatives–notably his post-midterm-election executive actions–to hold off on them until late January. It’s unclear why would he want to do that, unless it’s strictly for the convenience of White House reporters–and of Members of Congress who’d have preferred to make their own news or take vacation in November and December.

Maybe I’m just getting cranky in my old age, but I’ve come to loath the SOTU ritual–the ridiculous buildup, the scramble for advance copies, the robotic partisan reactions in the House chamber to every phrase, the usually-wretched Response of the Loyal Opposition, and so on and so forth. It’s like a White House Correspondent’s Dinner for really bored wonks and hacks. If Obama really could “kill” it, I’d be all for that. So if he wants to deflate some of its puffed-up artificial glory, that’s definitely fine.

What do you think? Do you love SOTU and its drab pageantry? Do you tear up when the Sargent At Arms proclaims “The President of the United States!” Do you make bets on which Cabinet member will be left home in case the Capitol gets blown up? Do tell.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.