Wednesday, February 02, 2005

State of the Union

Tonight is the State of the Union and I won't be watching it. Instead I have developed an experiment that I believe will be equally painful. First of all I will put my foot in a tub of some kind. I will then balance a lemon on my foot. I will then take a cinder block and drop it on the lemon, crushing it and causing it's juice to pour out. I will repeat for an hour and 15 minutes. Then I will enjoy a cool refreshing class of foot lemonade.

I'm sure some people will be watching it though. And of course people are already writing about it, basically trying to put it in historical context (before the speech is given, which, you have to admit, is kind of a trick).

Jeff Shesol, writing at the New York Times, considers not the State of the Union but the Response to the State of the Union. And his suggestion? Drop it.

It's not as crazy (or as anti-Democrat) as it first sounds. For one thing nobody pays much attention to the response. For another it's not surrounded by the same kind of pomp and circumstance as the State of the Union.
When the speech is over, the networks cut to a cramped room somewhere inside (or, it appears, underneath) the Capitol. The flag in the backdrop seems real enough, but the leather-bound volumes in the bookcase look fake. It is not an auspicious environment for a call to action. There is no audience; there will be no applause.
The other problem with the speech is that it is usually dull. A laundry list (just like the State of the Union actually). But the difference is that while the President is likely to be able to get his laundry list enacted, the Response has less power.

Of course this last argument only applies in those situations where the Presidency and the Congress are held by the same party. During much of the 80's and the 90's that wasn't the case. So I'm not sure about that argument. And it seems like moving the speech out of the basement of the capital and to a forum with lots of people (possibly on the west coast) might fix the first problem.

At any rate it's something to consider.

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