ANALYSIS -- Last night's 'State of the Union' speech was an excellent example of why it is time to end the annual tradition. Here's one good reason why. If you watched (and ratings would indicate you likely did not), name the most memorable moment of the night? Here's a clue. It involved Sen. Mark Rubio and a water bottle.
Looking back, the most memorable thing to come out of ANY President Obama 'State of the Union' address was an unfortunate 'You lie!' comment from a Republican Congressman sitting in the gallery. The State of the Union has become nothing more than a reiteration of political talking points we now hear every day, not to mention a great night to counter-program the Westminster Dog Show.
It wasn't always this way. When the nation was young, there was no State of the Union 'speech.' Rather, it was a document sent by the President to Congress. It took Presidential broadcasting pioneer Franklin Roosevelt to make it into a national spectacle by giving it on the radio in primetime. It was a novel idea for him to reach beyond the yet-to-be-built Beltway in an era when hearing directly from your President was rare enough to mean something. Now, we have networks ridiculously touting 'exclusive' interviews with the President minutes after another cable network has carried his latest public address live. Fox, MSNBC, and CNN have become so overtly political, you can now get your Presidential political fix 24/7.
While President Obama did use some tactics in an attempt to make his speech meaningful, they were tactics meant to reinforce his well-known positions on the issues. There was no real 'news.' Even his announcement of a stepped up withdrawl from Afghanistan didn't really qualify as big news ... the President has spoken many times before about his plan to draw down troop levels there. As Congressman Adam Kinzinger put it in a post-speech press release, "Tonight was a major opportunity for the President to call Republicans and Democrats together to say both sides must work together to find common ground in order to solve the huge problems facing this country for future generations. That's something that was sorely missing here tonight: ..." Whatever your thoughts on Kinzinger's politics, it's a fair appraisal.
This is not meant to be a criticism of the President. It was a perfectly fine if very partisan speech -- the kind of spech people who like the President will like, and those who don't like him will dislike -- and Mr. Obama delivered it well. No, this is more a plea for him to 'change the game' in the age of hyper-communication, just as Roosevelt did when technology evolved to allow him to give the first primetime State of the Union broadcast in the first place. What was once an innovation is now a relic, and no longer serves any real purpose.