Monday, January 24, 2011
January 25, 2011
President Obama will deliver his State of the Union speech this week. Don't hold your breath or sit on the edge of your seat.
It's not that Obama can't deliver a powerful, passionate speech. He can. He did so as recently as last week when he spoke about the shootings in Tucson.
You can, if you're old enough, remember a lot of eloquent presidential speeches – or at least parts of them. John Kennedy: "Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country." Franklin Roosevelt: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself...." Gerald Ford: "Truth is the glue that holds government together." Ronald Reagan (quoting poet John Magee after the Challenger disaster): "They 'slipped the surly bonds of earth' to 'touch the face of God.'" Trouble is, none of those come from a State of the Union speech. As you'll have guessed by now, there's a reason for that.
You could argue some. I mean, Bill Clinton said "The era of big government is over" in a State of the Union speech. I would argue that it's not really such a wonderful line, we all knew he didn't mean it and, of course, it wasn't true.
The difficulty is that great speeches tend to be about one thing--war, a depression, a tragedy. State of the Union speeches, by their nature, are laundry lists. The president comes to Congress and says, in effect, "Okay, guys, I hope you'll pass bills A, B and C, and junk bills D, E and F." It's a good idea. Presidents should let Congresses know what they'd like them to do. And we'll watch because we want to know that too. It's an important speech.
Just don't expect to laugh or cry much.