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The state of the State of the Union

January 27, 2012

Most Americans think the annual State of the Union (SOTU) speech by the president is some sort of constitutional requirement, but it’s not, and after watching President Obama give his third one on Tuesday, people are suggesting Congress should quit this bad habit cold turkey.

Here’s what the U.S. Constitution has to say on the issue:
“He 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...” – Article II, Section 3
Obviously, the Constitution says nothing about a speech every January. All it says is that the president needs to let Congress know what’s happening “from time to time.” Until Woodrow Wilson marched over to the U.S. Capitol in 1914 to indulge his professorial inclinations, presidents traditionally delivered the State of the Union in a letter to Congress somewhere around the start of the January legislative session:
“Dear Congress,
Here’s the straight poop as I see it, and what I want you to do about it. Now please get to work.
With love, affection, and a bit of sincerity,
The president”
Two hundred twenty four years ago when the Constitution was written, rural congresscritters who lived multiple-days-travel away from the capital and communicated via slow often-informal mail carriers and gathered all their information from newspapers whose correspondents communicated the same way, well, by golly they needed some information from time to time, so they would know what the heck was happening.

Imagine a congressman from northern Maine (then part of Massachusetts) in 1801 traveling on horseback for a week to attend a session of Congress and then being asked to vote on the issue of war against the Barbary States.
“The what states?”

“The Barbary States, dude. They’re in North Africa. The Pasha of Tripoli cut down the flagstaff in front of the U.S. Consulate, which means war.”

“First of all, what kind of word is ‘Pasha?’ And second, where the heck is Tripoli?”
Legislators back then might need bringing up to speed occasionally, but this is the Information Age wherein everybody is swimming in information, sometimes even drowning in it. It’s likely most of the congresscritters listening to Obama Tuesday evening knew more about whatever subject he was addressing at a given moment than he did. Certainly that’s true for the Republicans. Maybe even two or three of the Democrats.

Not only is the speech unnecessary, since Obama took office it’s become embarrassing. His SOTUs are self-aggrandizing, dishonest, and, worst of all, they're dumb. A website named Smart Politics analyzed all 70 SOTU speeches since 1934 using the Flesch-Kincaid readability test, and for the third time in a row Obama’s SOTU tallied at the eighth grade level. 8.4 grade level, to be exact. That’s better than last year when the SOTU measured 8.1, but worse than 2010 when it was 8.8. Among all presidents since FDR, Obama holds the record for overall dumbness of SOTU speeches, with an average grade level of 8.4. Either he doesn’t know how to talk above an eighth grade level, or he simply doesn’t have anything to say to educated, intelligent Americans. One or the other.
“On the day I took office, our auto industry was on the verge of collapse. Some even said we should let it die. With a million jobs at stake, I refused to let that happen. In exchange for help, we demanded responsibility. We got workers and automakers to settle their differences. We got the industry to retool and restructure. Today, General Motors is back on top as the world’s number-one automaker. Chrysler has grown faster in the U.S. than any major car company. Ford is investing billions in U.S. plants and factories. And together, the entire industry added nearly 160,000 jobs.” – SOTU, January 24, 2012
One of the persistent complaints about Barack Obama’s presidency is that he never stopped campaigning after he was elected. On a fundamental level, he doesn’t understand the role of the presidency as being the one office in the nation that represents everybody (not just Democrats, black people, environmentalists, teachers, and federal government employees), nor that the office requires a certain level of dignity, nor that his role as president must be kept rigorously separate from his campaign for reelection. In the paragraph above, you would never know that it was actually George Bush who began the bailout of automobile manufacturers. You would never know that Ford didn’t receive one dime of bailout money, so not one iota of their success is attributable to Obama. And you would never know that those thousands of new jobs in automobile manufacturing are mostly with other companies, many of them foreign companies, rather than the two which were bailed out by the federal government.

It’s deeply embarrassing for every single American listening, even Americans who voted for him and root for him, to hear their president claiming credit for solutions he had nothing to do with producing.
“In 2008, the house of cards collapsed. We learned that mortgages had been sold to people who couldn’t afford or understand them. Banks had made huge bets and bonuses with other people’s money. Regulators had looked the other way, or didn’t have the authority to stop the bad behavior.” – SOTU, January 24, 2012
Why were mortgages sold to people who couldn’t afford or understand them? Well, gee willickers, because Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guaranteed them, that’s why. And Democrats, among them a certain senator named Obama, refused to let Bush and Republicans fix the problem. It wouldn’t hurt him to admit the truth, to admit he and his political party were wrong. That would be presidential... like President Eisenhower, a former general, who warned Americans about the military-industrial complex.
“Those are the facts. But so are these. In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than three million jobs. Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005. American manufacturers are hiring again, creating jobs for the first time since the late 1990s. Together, we’ve agreed to cut the deficit by more than $2 trillion.” – SOTU, January 24, 2012
Those six short sentences were arguably the most embarrassing words in Tuesday’s speech. All over the country, Americans cringed at the blatant dishonesty. Nobody, not even Obama’s most virulent supporters, believes the unemployment problem has been solved or the deficit is under control. In fact, the total national debt today is $4.6 trillion higher than when Obama took office, the projected deficit for the current fiscal year is another $1.1 trillion (at least), and there are currently 1.6 million fewer people with jobs than when he took office.

Exaggeration and dishonesty are par for the course in election campaigns (unfortunately) but they are brand new phenomena for presidential speeches to joint sessions of Congress. Obama’s unrestrained and even enthusiastic embrace of lying was how he earned the unique experience of a shouted insult from a sitting congressman, the infamous “You lie!” from Rep. Joe Wilson in 2009.

He did lie. It may have been poor etiquette for Mr. Wilson to audibly point it out, but that’s a separate issue.

Barack Obama has forfeited any right to the traditional courtesy which compels Congress to accept a president’s demand to address a joint session of congress. It’s not a requirement that presidents be given that privilege, it’s not in the Constitution that a SOTU must be delivered orally, and it certainly wasn’t in our forefathers’ minds when they designed the republic that sitting presidents should trot over to Congress two or three times each year and give juvenile campaign speeches filled with lies and half-truths.

It’s no wonder the Washington Monument cracked – George “I cannot tell a lie” Washington is probably spinning in his grave and Honest Abe Lincoln has probably stomped on his own hat in frustration.
“One year ago, I took office amid two wars, an economy rocked by severe recession, a financial system on the verge of collapse, and a government deeply in debt.” – SOTU, January 27, 2010

“We are living with a legacy of deficit spending that began almost a decade ago.” – SOTU, January 25, 2011

“Let’s remember how we got here.” – SOTU, January 24, 2012
For three years President Barack Obama has been reminding us “how we got here.” If there is anything he is better known for than his never-ending campaign mode, it’s his proclivity for blaming things on George W. Bush. Everybody goes through a stage where they duck responsibility and blame everybody else, but most of us grow out of it. It’s part of becoming an adult and most of us have a good start on becoming adults by the time we get to high school...

Ninth grade, in other words.
“Dear Mr. President,
This is our formal rejection of your request to address a joint session of Congress on January 22, 2013. Number one, your SOTU speeches are so full of crap you’ve ruined the whole concept forever, and number two, since you lost the election to Mitt Romney we don’t have to pretend to be polite anymore. Get lost.
With little affection but much sincerity,

From Reno, Nevada, USA       

January 29, 2012 - Amen!!! & hopefully farewell to Obama & his Marxist gov. after 2012! - R.E. Moxley, North Carolina

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