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The State of the Union and Other ‘Shockers

A dear old friend has kindly offered us a ticket to a basketball game pitting the third-ranked and undefeated Wichita State University Wheatshockers against a lightly-regarded Loyola of Illinois Ramblers squad with a losing record, so we’ll have far more important things to do tonight than watch the State of the Union address. We probably would have skipped the speech in any case, however, and expect that most of our countrymen will do the same.
Article II and Section 3 of the constitution require that the president “shall from time give to congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge the necessary,” and we are far fussier sticklers about the constitution than the current president has been, but the practice of an annual oration to a joint session of Congress is a relatively new custom and one whose time has clearly passed. For all the fuss that the networks and the newspapers make about it the speeches have become a drearily predictable affair, as quickly forgotten as a New Year’s resolution, and there is no reason to believe that this year’s edition will be any different. Even without the benefit of leaked transcripts from highly-placed sources we are certain of what will be said, how the chattering classes will react, and what the political consequences will be.
There will be much somber reflection by the networks’ most familiar faces about the earth-shaking importance of the speech, followed by footage of every Democrat and a few forlorn Republicans from purplish districts jockeying for handshake position as the president proceeds with a royal swagger down the aisle toward the podium, along with all the other pomp and circumcision that attends these events. The president will then begin by declaring that the state of the union is sound, without any of the derisive laughter that such a ridiculous claim would ordinarily provoke, and then launch into an over-written, over-long, obviously self-serving account of the nation’s woes. He will briefly touch on the ongoing debacle of Obamacare, touting the few million who have signed on without mentioning that most of them previously had better plans that they liked and were promised they could keep, and he will spend the rest of it blathering endlessly about income inequality and proposing various fanciful solutions to this ineradicable fact of a free society.
All the talking heads on all the news stations save Fox will love it, and do their own endless blathering about how eloquently it was stated, but nothing will become of it but a bunch of ineffectual executive orders. Even the squishiest Republicans from the most purplish districts will not be persuaded, nor will the voters in any of the contested jurisdictions, and every item on the president’s ponderously explained agenda will be soon be a mere bargaining chip in the next round of debt ceiling negotiations. The only thing the president will talk about that might actually occur is immigration reform, as there seems to be some enthusiasm in both parties for flooding an historically weak labor market with millions more unskilled laborers, but the main interest will be in seeing which Republicans applaud and thereby invite a bruising primary challenge.
There will be the usual inspiring baritone delivery, and the gospel music cadences that have long wowed the pundits, but nothing that amounts to must-see TV. We’ll check a post-speech transcript to see what we missed, and it might be worth commenting on, but we’re confident it won’t be anything worth missing a ‘Shocker game.

— Bud Norman

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