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NR’s Williamson: Stop the State of the Union

Sorry. I know you guys are sick of State of the Union commentary by now. But I just had to share this with you.

Employing devastating eloquence, Kevin Williamson of National Review shreds the State of the Union, douses the pieces in kerosene, fries them to a crisp, and spreads the ashes over the Indian Ocean.

Not Obama’s State of the Union address. ANY State of the Union address.

From the piece, titled Great Caesar’s Ghost:

The annual State of the Union pageant is a hideous, dispiriting, ugly, monotonous, un-American, un-republican, anti-democratic, dreary, backward, monarchical, retch-inducing, depressing, shameful, crypto-imperial display of official self-aggrandizement and piteous toadying, a black Mass during which every unholy order of teacup totalitarian and cringing courtier gathers under the towering dome of a faux-Roman temple to listen to a speech with no content given by a man with no content, to rise and to be seated as is called for by the order of worship — it is a wonder they have not started genuflecting — with one wretched representative of their number squirreled away in some well-upholstered Washington hidey-hole in order to preserve the illusion that those gathered constitute a special class of humanity without whom we could not live.

It’s the most nauseating display in American public life — and I write that as someone who has just returned from a pornographers’ convention.

Get the idea?

Williamson notes that through much of the nation’s history, the State of the Union was not delivered in person. It was Woodrow Wilson, the grandpa of our current statist predicament, who launched the modern annual imperial procession from the White House to Capitol Hill.

The State of the Union address, Williamson suggests, imbues the presidency with a regal aura that was never, ever intended and that is directly contrary to the point of our nation’s founding.

It’s expensive maintaining an imperial class, but money isn’t really the object here, and neither is the current occupant of the White House, unlikeable as he is. Whether it’s Barack Obama or some subsequent pathological megalomaniac, Republican or Democrat, the increasingly ceremonial and quasi-religious aspect of the presidency is unseemly. It is profane. It is unbecoming of us as a people, and it has transformed the presidency into an office that can be truly attractive only to men who are unfit to hold it.

George Washington showed the world that men do not need a king. We, his heirs, have allowed the coronation of something much worse.

It’s worse than the Oscars.

I don’t completely agree. I think Americans like a bit of pageantry, and better to have an elected official perform it that an actual monarch.

I think the State of the Union has the civic virtue of allowing Americans the chance to see the government in one place and watch their elected leaders engage with all the issues currently before them, even if only rhetorically. I think there’s value in that.

But Williamson’s points are very well taken. The presidency and the executive branch have become monstrous. Congress, and particularly the House, is supposed to be the soul of our government, not the president.

If the whole grand, pompous spectacle ended – replaced by, say, an address from the Oval Office – I might object. But quietly.

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88 Responses to NR’s Williamson: Stop the State of the Union

  1. Before 24/7 cycles of news you can’t use, the SOTU was looked forward to as seeing and hearing our President and Congress. Families gathered around, the speeches were inspiring and motivating.

    Trouble is, now we can’t get the Presidents and Congress OFF our tv’s.

    • U.S. Const. art. II, § 3: 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.

      • Mandy, I appreciate that you’re trying to be fair here, but can you name one necessary or expedient measure King Barry the Wicked proposed the other night that might actually work anywhere outside the faculty lounge?

          • The phrase ‘from time to time’ is loose. Maybe the President should speak only when he has something to say, and as in many other cases, the founders had no idea what the country would be like over 200 years later or that the speech would become just another PR mechanism. Mark Levin is right in that we need a second Constitutional Convention to tidy things up a bit.

          • From Wiki: George Washington delivered the first regular annual message before a joint session of Congress on January 8, 1790, in New York City, then the provisional U.S. capital. In 1801, Thomas Jefferson discontinued the practice of delivering the address in person, regarding it as too monarchical (similar to the Speech from the Throne). Instead, the address was written and then sent to Congress to be read by a clerk until 1913 when Woodrow Wilson re-established the practice despite some initial controversy. However, there have been exceptions to this rule. Presidents during the latter half of the 20th century have sent written State of the Union addresses. The last President to do this was Jimmy Carter in 1981.[5]

          • Thanks for the information. I was unawareThomas Jefferson’s thought on this matter.
            The main problem here is the fact that their are very serious constitution facts, he does not seem to care for. Pen and Pencil. Most people didn’t feel threated by that comment, because he didn’t say I have a helmet and a gun, sword. Even if we get though this term ok, what are we going to do when the next P. is elected? Overnight, is everything going back the way it was prior to him automaticalley? I didn’t agree with the phone issue when Bush was in office. Now look where we are.

  2. We all can agree that the Executive branch is not what was envisioned by our Founders, but that’s not a reason to eliminate the current way we see the SOTU.
    The President should meet with a joint session of Congress every now and then to actually address the state of the union. It shouldn’t be a recital of the President’s wish list, or his version of the truth concerning events or a chance to chastise the opposition to his agenda.
    The problem lies with the office of the President and how it’s occupants view their role in government. The simple result of being elected doesn’t mean that the people actually want the President to enact new laws and regulations or change every aspect of America to reflect his opinion of how we should live, or how America is viewed around the world.
    MrObama’s state of the union speech was misleading, contradictory and only stated his particular wants and desires for our country.

    As for the pomp and ceremony,

    • oops….”pomp and ceremony, America loves to have something that’s a tradition, something lasting that we had to invent for a country so young and lacking in history.
      We like pageants, ceremonies, crowning the “winners”, and keeping what is peculiar to America. These things are part of what brought together the immigrants from every country in the world to see themselves as “Americans” and not some hypenated resident of a new country.

      • Good point–the actual state of the union, not what he wants to get the union into a different state. Yeah! As for the toadies, all the red outfits, reaching to touch His Maj–hurl!

        • Americans, all brought up on ‘the magic’ of Hollywood, probably do not want to hear the real state of the union, but even less so, those with the power to screw up country and have done so want even less to tell them the truth.

  3. If it really were what the Framers intended–a neutral assessment of what the Executive believes is the current state of affairs in the country–then I wouldn’t even object to the dog and pony show, even as distasteful as I find it.

    The problem is that we have not had such an address in some time. We get campaign speeches, wish lists, and red meat thrown to the president’s base. That, I think, is the problem with the whole sordid spectacle: these aren’t the type of addresses our chief executives are supposed to be giving.

  4. Full disclosure, mine is a labor of love for country and not a penny of any click has yet to find its way into my ever shrinking pockets. With that said a couple of links humbly posted for those still not quite sick enough of Obama but curious enough to see
    1. How easy it is to write a column a day before POTUS did his SOTU and be able to nail it: http://www.joplinglobe.com/editorial/x714770167/Geoff-Caldwell-columnist-Obama-could-learn-a-lot-from-first-George
    and
    2. “No one person in the history of the Presidency itself has done more to polarize Washington and betray the trust of the American people than one Barack Hussein Obama and yet he still had the gall to stand in the well of the House of Representatives and act but the victim of circumstances. That a man of such low character, of such disregard for our founding principles and the Constitution that protects them has three more years to demagogue this nation into a chasm of division so wide and so deep we may never recover instills a worry in me far greater than any terrorist or foreign enemy ever could.” – See more at: http://caldwellscorner.com/blog/?p=7680#sthash.JB1durtb.dpuf
    I mean no disrespect to any atheists or agnostics that may frequent this page as I’m pretty much a “leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone” kind of guy but after Tuesday night I must implore everyone else:
    Please, pray for our country.

    • Excellent. I liked how you didn’t waste any time getting to the point about the non functioning Congress — Harry Reid. Well done! The entire article.

      I hate the term “Republican Congress”. Every time I see it or hear I comment. Such a cheap ride.

      And Caldwell’s Corner is now on my feed. Looking forward to it.

  5. Obama does not have an ounce of ‘Statesmanship’ in his scrawny body. The SOTU does nothing but showcase his lowly community agitating talents, his hypocrisy and lies, his distain for over half of the country, and his utter contempt for the Constitution.
    And, btw, I think his so-called ‘oratory skills’…stink! In my day, he never would have made the HS oratory or debate teams.

    • Hell, Obama never would have made ANY team that required actual effort or proof of ability.
      He was coddled and ushered through to the next stop his entire life. He’s no more an American in terms of the American experience as formed by our founding principles than Lenin or Mao.

    • The joke used to be that prior to being picked to run the country, the only thing he’d ever run was his mouth. Now he’s suddenly off his game on that…and we’ve got three more years of his misrule to endure.

      I try to be optimistic about America’s chances of surviving all this, but on days like this, man oh man, do I have trouble hanging in there.

      • My money’s on this country. We’ve survived a revolution, a war in 1812, a civil war, various economic panics, a depression, WW I, WW II, various various proxy wars against the USSR and we won the Cold War.

        • I commend your optimism, but remember that all winning streaks come to an end some time. In other words, it’s going to be very difficult to come back, not automatic.

          • I agree that it is going to be difficult to come back — for a variety of reasons. And I am not optimistic. Too many Americans have taken an unlikeable shift in their moral and cultural values. The culture of dependency is growing. And the press has morphed itself from a watchdog to a lapdog. Fraud and corruption is rampant in our political system. etc.etc.

            That said, I did call my Congressman’s office today about the upcoming retreat, and immigration especially. I supported Jeff Sessions letter and was critical of Boehnner and Ryan especially.

            Part of the work of change lies with us. At Red State there is a good diary summary of the benefits of conservatives becoming precinct committeemen (AZ). Link here.

            http://www.redstate.com/coldwarrior/2014/01/29/another-good-thing-happened-caused-by-conservatives-becoming-precinct-committeemen-in-az/

            If you read this you will also find a link to the national precinct project and there also a link to the Madison Project.

          • There was a discussion on Fox this morning. Predator Drone helps convict ND farmer. The family refused at gunpoint to let authorities with search warrent in.
            Mandy I would like to be optimistic as well, but there is a reason for a search warrent. Many people do their best to avoid getting the search warrent served, but with hard work it is finally gets delivered. There are eyes on us all over the place, and we just put up with it. Any dictator from years past would have just loved our tecnology.

        • You’re writing off Vietnam and Korea as proxy wars against the USSR? Please. Americans died–not proxies. And countries do have life cycles–just like companies–we may have peaked and now we have this president to shove us downhill.

      • How can anyone be optimistic when we have Boehner et al snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
        And then there is that obnoxious lttle twit, Reince Priebus.
        I see no light at the end of the tunnel outside of a runaway train heading our way.

      • I am going to try a cut and paste. Might not work.
        *************
        I agree that it is going to be difficult to come back — for a variety of reasons. And I am not optimistic. Too many Americans have taken an unlikeable shift in their moral and cultural values. The culture of dependency is growing. And the press has morphed itself from a watchdog to a lapdog. Fraud and corruption is rampant in our political system. etc.etc.

        That said, I did call my Congressman’s office today about the upcoming retreat, and immigration especially. I supported Jeff Sessions letter and was critical of Boehnner and Ryan especially.

        Part of the work of change lies with us. At Red State there is a good diary summary of the benefits of conservatives becoming precinct committeemen (AZ). Link here.

        http://www.redstate.com/coldwarrior/2014/01/29/another-good-thing-happened-caused-by-conservatives-becoming-precinct-committeemen-in-az/

        If you read this you will also find a link to the national precinct project and there also a link to the Madison Project.

      • Coming back from Obama. I tried to be clever and do a cut and paste which also went to moderation. Hope this one doesn’t end up there. Can’t figure out moderation at all — content, length, links?

  6. Here here – away with it….

    We rarely miss the speech, but this year we made no plans to watch it. I don’t know where people come up with thinking President Obama is such a phenomenal orator. I think kids doing speech in high school competitions probably surpass him and many prior Presidents.

    That being said – posters are right – our Presidents are over exposed – that’s why it was so hard for people to grasp someone of Mr. Romney’s intellect and what he could have done – the media gives no time to really discuss issues so it all becomes something like a coronation – he who has the best coronation – wins. I guess that will never change – but it wouldn’t bother me a bit if they did away with the televised State of the Union – When a President is newly elected – let the President give a speech shortly after inauguration and then let them do their jobs.

    • I was active in debate and extemp in HS and won the Missouri extemp thing one yr–and with his straw men, gazing around, jaw jutting, over simplification, lame anecdotes etc, he would never have made our team. And in person, no prompter, with the uh-uh disease and flashbulb smile, forget about it.

      • Congradulations on your debate. I feel that the tele-promter must go. It is only fair to the American people that the person in office may slip from time to time. It gives us the chance to see what they are really thinking. Even if they had a written speech the were reading, they may say something more than what is on the paper itself.
        If we had someone in the first term that kept putting his foot in his mouth, maybe not as many people would be entranced and fooled by him.

          • Congrats Star – I know what an accomplishment that is. Our son won extemporaneous at California State Tournament when he was a senior in high school. I believe his was US Extemp but he also did Foreign (18 years ago). Our daughter was also in speech – she did prepared speeches. Both of them went to State level tournmanents and both of them made Nationals in their senior years. It is hard work and the competition fierce.

    • There hasn’t been a single day since the coronation of Obama that his name, his face, or his mouth isn’t heard, seen, or going. It is one of the most sickening aspects of our age of celebrity and idol worship.

    • Decades drawn out – unless he does not seek an appeal and demands the needle ASAP (I personally think a firing squad is more appropriate).

    • Everytime someone wants to sell the phone listening, drones flying over Americans, etc. All at the same time we should point out that a man in his backyard caught this terrible person.

  7. There’s a reason the 2014 SOTU garnered the lowest viewership since 2000: people know it’s all that Williamson describes. People are fed up with politics as is. We know we are being screwed by both D’s and R’s. Obama is just the latest carnival barker who’s trying to convince us to pay up to go see the alligator lady, the man with four arms and the fat man. Congressional disapproval is at 94 percent. Obama is at a record low approval rate and dropping like a stone. We are just done hearing politicians congratulate themselves for doing such a grand job.

  8. The State of the Union address is simply another expensive propaganda tool with the worthless, do-nothing federal government leaders given another opportunity to sit on their behinds with the cameras on.