Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Tuning Out the State of the Union
The Cato Institute ^ | 26 January 2010 (originally) | Gene Healy

Posted on 01/26/2010 2:18:58 PM PST by The Pack Knight

Tomorrow night, an embattled President Obama will deliver his 2010 State of the Union. He originally wanted to give it on Feb. 2, but — adding to a string of recent indignities — had to yield after irate Lost fans made clear they wouldn't put up with their season premiere getting pre-empted by a lousy presidential speech.

Lost is a silly show — a six-year-long Twilight Zone episode doomed to end in disappointment. But you can hardly blame Americans for preferring it to the SOTU, a dull and tacky spectacle that celebrates our retreat from limited, constitutional government.

The Constitution requires that the president "from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union." But it doesn't mandate the modern pageant of pomp, circumstance, and phony promises we suffer through every year.

In fact, for most of the Republic's first century, the SOTU was a modest, informational affair. Presidents sent the written address to Congress, to be read aloud by a clerk. That was thanks to President Jefferson, who thought delivering the speech before Congress assembled smacked too much of a king's "Speech from the Throne."

When the power-hungry Woodrow Wilson overturned the Jeffersonian tradition in 1913, one senator cursed the revival of "the old Federalistic custom of speeches from the throne," calling it a "cheap and tawdry imitation of English royalty."

The speech only got worse from there, especially after the advent of television and LBJ's decision to move the address to prime time. That sealed the SOTU's transformation into the modern ritual, in which the president stands at the front of the House chamber making exorbitant promises that would shame a carny barker, while congresscritters stand and clap like members of the Supreme Soviet cheering a Brezhnev speech.

Ronald Reagan introduced the unfortunate custom of pointing to "Lenny Skutniks:" ordinary citizens in the SOTU audience who help the president hammer home his theme. Skutnik himself was a hero who dove into the icy Potomac to rescue a plane-crash survivor, but lately, presidents tend to bring along "victim Skutniks" who can serve as living arguments for federal activism. In his 2000 SOTU, Bill Clinton acknowledged a Columbine parent and anti-gun advocate, and in last year's address, Barack Obama saluted a young girl trying to learn in a dilapidated school.

Political scientist Elvin T. Lim finds that the modern SOTU has grown increasingly "compassionate and emotive," its content more "egalitarian and redistributive." References to the Constitution, quite common in our first century, have declined, replaced by "an increasing lack of humility" on the part of the president.

After the apparent failure of President Obama's hubristic attempt to take over the health care sector, it's little wonder so many plan to tune out on Wednesday.

When Richard Nixon gave a prime-time address in 1971, more than half of the viewing public watched. In 2003, George W. Bush could do no better than 21 percent.

When Obama had to make way for Lost, some lamented the fact that many Americans preferred trash TV over presidential enlightenment. But the public's lack of interest in the SOTU is actually a sign of political health.

When all eyes turn to the president, demanding he cure whatever ails us, the result is a dangerous concentration of federal power. Thus, it's good that our national talk-show host suffers from declining Nielsens.

Early indications are that tomorrow, a chastened Obama may retreat into "small-ball," with a passel of tax credits and microprograms. Must-see TV this ain't, but a lessening of presidential ambition would be very good news.

Jimmy Carter was the last president to mail in his SOTU, in 1981. It's unlikely that Carter did that out of respect for Jeffersonian principles — he was a lame duck, worried that nobody wanted to hear him. Obama should keep that option in mind for next year.


TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Front Page News; Government; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: bho44; bhosotu; cato; obama; sotu; stateoftheunion
Anything that dims the royal aura of the Presidency is a good thing, no matter who holds the office.
1 posted on 01/26/2010 2:18:59 PM PST by The Pack Knight
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight

“Lost is a silly show.”

Oh boy — that’ll warm folks up to the Cato Institute.


2 posted on 01/26/2010 2:22:00 PM PST by Touch Not the Cat
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: nutmeg

Ping


3 posted on 01/26/2010 2:23:07 PM PST by EdReform (Oath Keepers - Guardians of the Republic - Honor your oath - Join us: www.oathkeepers.org)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight

I’ll be tuning in to count the Bush bashes.


4 posted on 01/26/2010 2:23:49 PM PST by duckman (My Grandma Isn't Shovel Ready!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight

From Obama’s Twitter: Tomorrow OFA supporters will gather across the country to watch the State of the Union. Sign up for a #WatchParty near you http://bit.ly/a-H


5 posted on 01/26/2010 2:24:21 PM PST by truthandlife ("Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God." (Ps 20:7))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight

I’d rather watch grass grow than listen to this bozo!


6 posted on 01/26/2010 2:24:38 PM PST by AngelesCrestHighway
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight

Enjoyed that read. Did not know the history of SOTU. I will not watch.


7 posted on 01/26/2010 2:26:10 PM PST by ColdOne
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: AngelesCrestHighway

I’ll tune into FOX after he makes an ass of himself. He has absolutely no credibility.


8 posted on 01/26/2010 2:26:39 PM PST by unkus
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight

Obama thinks the state of the union is about UAW.


9 posted on 01/26/2010 2:26:45 PM PST by tacticalogic ("Oh bother!" said Pooh, as he chambered his last round.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight
"He originally wanted to give it on Feb. 2, but — adding to a string of recent indignities — had to yield after irate Lost fans made clear they wouldn't put up with their season premiere getting pre-empted by a lousy presidential speech."

A lousy speech is the only kind that a monumentally lousy president can deliver...and even those who have woven their unrealistic fantasies into his seductive lies are coming to recognize that fact.

10 posted on 01/26/2010 2:27:23 PM PST by TheClintons-STILLAnti-American (ND LE)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight

He can give The State of Confusion on Sesame Street.

That way Big Bird can ask him some really hard questions.

The press pool won’t,


11 posted on 01/26/2010 2:28:48 PM PST by Candor7 (((The effective weapons against Oba- Fascism are ridicule, derision , truth (.Member NRA)))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight

He can give The State of Confusion on Sesame Street.

That way Big Bird can ask him some really hard questions.

The press pool won’t,


12 posted on 01/26/2010 2:28:48 PM PST by Candor7 (((The effective weapons against Oba- Fascism are ridicule, derision , truth (.Member NRA)))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight

He can give The State of Confusion on Sesame Street.

That way Big Bird can ask him some really hard questions.

The press pool won’t,


13 posted on 01/26/2010 2:28:52 PM PST by Candor7 (((The effective weapons against Oba- Fascism are ridicule, derision , truth (.Member NRA)))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight
"In fact, for most of the Republic's first century, the SOTU was a modest, informational affair. Presidents sent the written address to Congress, to be read aloud by a clerk. That was thanks to President Jefferson, who thought delivering the speech before Congress assembled smacked too much of a king's "Speech from the Throne."

Those were obviously far humbler times.

Our current President is more likely to think the speech should be required viewing by every resident of the world, with numerous mandatory regular standing ovations.

Not far from the existing policy of Obama's political ally Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

14 posted on 01/26/2010 2:33:51 PM PST by TheClintons-STILLAnti-American (ND LE)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight

I will not be watching, as any American with half a brain and common sense will be doing the same thing, not watching this anti-American, socialist, proven over & over again liar POTUS Barack Hussein Obama. Everything he utters is naught but lies, lies and more lies!!!! This guy does not have an ounce of honesty or loyalty in his entire being. I’ll be watching the history or military channels, a place where real Americans that love their country reside!!!!


15 posted on 01/26/2010 2:36:19 PM PST by JLAGRAYFOX
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight

If only some brave soul wil Yell out “YOU LIE” as did Joe Wilson, maybe this time from the gallary. Of course they will be excorted out, but so what, the damage was done. lol


16 posted on 01/26/2010 2:37:19 PM PST by annieokie
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: TheClintons-STILLAnti-American

I’m not a huge fan of Jefferson, but he was certainly right on this one.


17 posted on 01/26/2010 2:40:01 PM PST by Sherman Logan (Never confuse schooling with education.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 14 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight

I tuned him out from the get-go. He’s a liar!


18 posted on 01/26/2010 2:41:02 PM PST by AngelesCrestHighway
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight

No reason to turn it on, we all know the state, it stinks.


19 posted on 01/26/2010 2:49:26 PM PST by mulligan
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: annieokie; The Pack Knight
If only some brave soul wil Yell out “YOU LIE” as did Joe Wilson, maybe this time from the gallary. Of course they will be excorted out, but so what, the damage was done. lol

A caller on Rush show (Mark Steyn) today recommended laughing at him, instead.

20 posted on 01/26/2010 2:54:08 PM PST by Isara
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: mulligan

If the American people really want to send a clear, dedicated message to the socialist, ego-maniac, Anti-American, unprotecting, POTUS Obama, millions of Americans should not tune into, the bold faced lies POTUS Obama is going to try to fool you folks with. Maybe then his Democrat Party will get it and “broom” this failure by forcing him to resign or, if not, impeach him!!!!


21 posted on 01/26/2010 2:56:09 PM PST by JLAGRAYFOX
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: Touch Not the Cat
Last Friday with the mass showing of the aid to Haiti the prempted the season premier of Smallvile.
22 posted on 01/26/2010 2:56:30 PM PST by guitarplayer1953 (Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to GOD! Thomas Jefferson)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight

This guy is NOT going to come out looking haggard one bit. He has the aggravating habit of tuning out any negative news. He probably does not even know that he was repudiated in Mass; New Jersey; Virginia and Copenhagen. He is a puppet on a string, a creation of the media.

The agenda will be some rhetoric about how he is pushing to get the economy moving, how he is reducing deficits, how he is reining in Wall Street bankers and how he is fighting for the common people. He will say his health care agenda is moving forward. He was say his first year was a success and would be better if everyone pitched in to help.

Blah blah and more blah


23 posted on 01/26/2010 2:57:17 PM PST by Mouton
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight
“Lost is a silly show — a six-year-long Twilight Zone episode doomed to end in disappointment”

I take exception to that comment, but I agree that the SOTU address is going to be a Bush bashing, “I’m doing this for you undeserving dim-witted smelly under-educated victims of capitalism” speech.

24 posted on 01/26/2010 2:58:00 PM PST by Londo Molari
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight

There’s a slap chop infomercial I just can’t miss.


25 posted on 01/26/2010 3:01:44 PM PST by jersey117
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight
a six-year-long Twilight Zone episode doomed to end in disappointment.

Thus rightfully taking precedence over a four-year-long Twilight Zone episode doomed to end in dissappointment.

26 posted on 01/26/2010 3:01:50 PM PST by RonF
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Londo Molari

Re the SOTU tomorrow night:

Don’t have to hang any signs on the screen.

Don’t even have to decide if I’m going to watch.

Our brand-new-just-installed-to-keep-visiting-grandkids-entertained satellite receiver must have absorbed the political attitude around The Homestead, because the little so-and-so curled up and died last night. Called the guy who sold us the thing, got the news that he can’t get the replacement to us before Friday and spent most of the time since either listening to Grandma chuckling over her book by the fireplace or ROFLMAO myself.

Back during the Clintonzeit, I’d listen to Slick’s SOTU for background noise while I figgered our taxes, but I’m worried that if I do the same deal with The O as inspiration, I’ll go into truly inventive tax cheating mode and either wind up in jail or (worse yet) find myself fully qualified for some Cabinet post.


27 posted on 01/26/2010 3:04:17 PM PST by Unrepentant VN Vet (1089 and a wakeup)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 24 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight

I can’t stand to listen to him and would rather watch chicken parts thaw. I’ll check out Fox News or Rush for the summary ... which will be about all I’ll be able to stomach.


28 posted on 01/26/2010 3:05:19 PM PST by Fast Moving Angel (We'll remember in November!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight

From “Messiah” to “embattled” in 12 short months.


29 posted on 01/26/2010 3:31:19 PM PST by La Lydia
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight
There's no way I'd subject myself to watching the Communist-Liar-in-Chief.

I'll just listen to Rush's coverage of TOTUS when he's back on the air on Thursday!

30 posted on 01/26/2010 3:42:42 PM PST by kara2008
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight

This will be beyond boring...it would be interesting if the Republicans just stayed away; but that’s not happening. I’ll be cleaning the cat box.


31 posted on 01/26/2010 3:47:35 PM PST by who knows what evil? (G-d saved more animals than people on the ark...www.siameserescue.org.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight
...and in last year's address, Barack Obama saluted a young girl trying to learn in a dilapidated school.

Maybe this year he can bring in someone who has spent the last year trying to find a job...somebody the people can identify with...

32 posted on 01/26/2010 3:51:43 PM PST by who knows what evil? (G-d saved more animals than people on the ark...www.siameserescue.org.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight

I (and some others, locally) will be celebrating the sotu by holding a meeting for potential precinct committeemen. It’s time to take our country back. Boo oscrama!


33 posted on 01/26/2010 3:53:10 PM PST by RobinOfKingston (Democrats, the party of evil. Republicans, the party of stupid.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight

Hey zero I got a SOTU from me to you STFU Big Ears!


34 posted on 01/26/2010 3:53:27 PM PST by RedMDer (Recycle Congress in 2010, 2012...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight

35 posted on 01/26/2010 3:56:38 PM PST by bert (K.E. N.P. +12 . Tax the poor. Taxes will give them a stake in society)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight
He's going to need more tricks than just his warmed-over campaign speech to keep viewers interested.


36 posted on 01/26/2010 3:57:54 PM PST by paulycy (Demand Constitutionality.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ColdOne

I enjoyed that too. Didn’t remember Carter sending the address in 81.


37 posted on 01/26/2010 3:58:39 PM PST by RedMDer (Recycle Congress in 2010, 2012...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: JLAGRAYFOX

the republicans should not show up at all. or even better, at the first lie...stand up and shout in unison YOU LIE, and then have every republican file out. total humiliation is how you deal with this POS


38 posted on 01/26/2010 4:24:59 PM PST by Ouderkirk (Democrats: the party of Slavery, Segregation, Sodomy and Sedition)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 15 | View Replies]

To: Isara

Laughing would be great. Why be afraid now?


39 posted on 01/26/2010 4:27:37 PM PST by annieokie
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 20 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight

I won’t give him the satisfaction of the rating. I’ll pick up the highlights/lowlights from FOX afterward.


40 posted on 01/26/2010 4:28:52 PM PST by Bluebeard16
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight
 Speech Preparation
41 posted on 01/26/2010 4:30:20 PM PST by Tawiskaro
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: annieokie

I think someone should yell out “You lie!” at every speech OZer0 gives, like yelling out “Freebird!” at a rock concert. In fact, I’m surprised the press doesn’t yell out “Freebird!” at every 0Zer0 speech.


42 posted on 01/26/2010 4:40:28 PM PST by bIlluminati (Don't just hope for change, work for change in 2010.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 16 | View Replies]

To: AdmSmith; Berosus; bigheadfred; Convert from ECUSA; dervish; Ernest_at_the_Beach; Fred Nerks; ...
He originally wanted to give it on Feb. 2, but -- adding to a string of recent indignities -- had to yield after irate Lost fans made clear they wouldn't put up with their season premiere getting pre-empted by a lousy presidential speech. Lost is a silly show -- a six-year-long Twilight Zone episode doomed to end in disappointment. But you can hardly blame Americans for preferring it to the SOTU, a dull and tacky spectacle that celebrates our retreat from limited, constitutional government.
If Clinton were President now, the only show that would have this kind of leverage would be "Big Bang Theory".

BTW, "Lost" is an I'm-sure unintentional borrowing of a failed show from, hmm almost 40 years ago, called "The New People".
43 posted on 01/26/2010 5:08:12 PM PST by SunkenCiv (Happy New Year! Freedom is Priceless.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight
I've already warned hubby NOT to turn it on, because if butthole says he's fighting for me one more time, I'll puke. He's not fighting for me, I'm OLD, I'm on SS and Medicare/Tricare therefore expendable.

The new Demonrat mantra! Woof, woof, let granny eat dog food...spoof on 'let them eat cake'. obama's war on seniors See the links in post 43-46 and on the last page.

Expanding support for families balancing work with caring for elderly relatives with a $102.5 million Caregiver Initiative adding $52.5 million in funding to Department of Health and Human Services caregiver support programs that provide temporary respite care, counseling, training, and referrals to critical services. The administration says the extra funding will allow nearly 200,000 additional caregivers to be served and 3 million more hours of respite care to be provided. It also adds $50 million to programs that provide transportation help, adult day care, and in-home services, such as aides to help seniors bathe and cook, help which eases the burden for family members and helps seniors stay in their homes.

44 posted on 01/26/2010 5:29:49 PM PST by GailA (obamacare paid for by cuts & taxes on most vulnerable Veterans, disabled,seniors & retired Military)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Isara

I think the Republican rebuttal should be made by Joe Wilson. It should be two words, “YOU LIE!!!”


45 posted on 01/26/2010 6:18:06 PM PST by castlegreyskull
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 20 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight

OBAMA ADMINISTRATION

None of us give a damn what this SOB has to say, but many...if not most, will not be able to look away.


46 posted on 01/26/2010 6:27:16 PM PST by DCPatriot ("It aint what you don't know that kills you. It's what you know that aint so" Theodore Sturgeon))
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: The Pack Knight
When Obama had to make way for Lost, some lamented the fact that many Americans preferred trash TV over presidential enlightenment. But the public's lack of interest in the SOTU is actually a sign of political health.

Actually, what it means is that we prefer silly TV like "Lost" to a trash 'President'.

47 posted on 01/26/2010 7:15:47 PM PST by Colonel_Flagg (No apologies.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
News/Activism
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson