Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

State of the Union Nothing but a Rerun

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

State of the Union Nothing but a Rerun

Article excerpt

Congress has a constitutional duty to prepare a budget, but hasn't for more than 1,000 days because the Democrats who control the Senate fear it would embarrass them to put down in black and white how much they plan to spend, and how large a deficit their spending will create.

Democrats plan to shirk their obligation for another year, to give credence to President Barack Obama's plans to run against a "do nothing" Congress...even though the half of Congress that's doing nothing is run by Democrats.

Not so long ago, such blatant political maneuvering would have prompted howls of outrage from press and public. But few in the news media mention it.

If constitutional duties can be shrugged off so easily, may we -- since it is merely a tradition -- also dispense with the State of the Union address?

Presidents from Thomas Jefferson (1801-09) through William Howard Taft (1909-13) delivered to Congress in writing what was then known as the Annual Message. It was chiefly a report on how Executive Branch departments were performing their duties.

To rally support for his legislative agenda, Woodrow Wilson revived the practice of delivering the Annual Message in person. The politicization of the SOTU accelerated rapidly with the advent of radio and television, and after Lyndon Johnson began the practice of delivering it in prime time.

With rare exception, SOTUs today are partisan events masquerading as affairs of state.

SOTUs typically last about an hour, but rarely contain memorable phrases. This year President Barack Obama spoke 7,059 words in 65 minutes, but said less about the state of the union than Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, who delivered the Republican response, did in ten.

The 10th longest SOTU ever was noteworthy mostly for what Mr. Obama didn't say.

*Obamacare has roiled the health care industry, but only 44 of those 7,059 words were devoted to health care reform. …

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