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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The State of the Union: Tastes Great, Less Filling


When the United States became a nation, the Framers of the Constitution intended for the President to “...from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union.”

I don’t think the Founding Fathers envisioned this becoming a primetime entertainment event.

Today, the State of the Union is not much better than Miller Lite’s old slogan praising the good taste and the lightness of “the champagne of bottled beer”.

Think about it. On television, the State of the Union “tastes great” in that those who agree with President Obama and his policies are going to lap up what he says. But those who are realistic about this event are keen to point out that it’s much too vague. It doesn’t satisfy me, and it shouldn’t satisfy you. It’s not just “less” filling, it’s not filling at all.

This isn’t a political gripe as much as it is a gripe about the structure and the aim of this annual event. I’m not going to blame President Obama for this, nor will I blame Bush 43, or any previous president. It’s not their fault this event has become a farce.

    President Obama has, in theory, sixty minutes to address Congress regarding the current condition of our country. Of course, like any large event, it doesn’t start on time, so instead we’re treated to ten minutes of   You can’t describe all the inner workings of a country with 310 million people living here. It’s just not possible. On top of that, every time something comes out that people like, everyone has to rise to their feet to applaud. It may make sense to do that when you’re in the chamber, but it looks positively absurd on television, and it cuts into an already insufficient amount of time.


    And these days it feels like they’re not even trying to hide the media circus aspect of this  debacle. There is no reason at all that an actor from Duck Dynasty should be sitting among dignitaries and congressmen. Tomorrow, I’ll probably wake up to a frenzy of fluff articles, none of which will really accomplish anything. Buzzfeed will probably have some asinine list about the funny facial expressions Vice President Joe Biden made. Some insolent morons on Twitter will probably have made some unbelievably ignorant and/or derogatory comments about something or someone.  And news organizations on both sides will be picking apart already-clean bones. 


Here’s a few things that could be done:

1. Include details. As many as you can. The good, the bad, the ugly, the uplifting. The American people (and people around the world) have such access to a wealth of information these days that to dwell in generalities is almost insulting. Don’t act like things don’t exist when it’s obvious they do. (The NSA scandal comes to mind.)
2. Get off the political soapbox. That is not what this event is supposed to entail. Leave that for the campaign trail.
3. Restrict the applause until the end of the speech.
4. Break it down. So many things happen from day to day, it’d be crazy to think you could sum up a year of events in an hour. Perhaps monthly addresses focused on fact would accomplish more.

You know things have gotten bad when the highlight is when the President makes a reference to a TV show.

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