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Editorial: State of the Union

Posted: January 22, 2015 9:18 a.m.
Updated: January 23, 2015 1:00 a.m.

Kershaw County residents who watched the State of the Union address Tuesday night might agree with us that perhaps it’s time to call a halt to the entire production. That’s not a slam at President Obama, for he did nothing more overtly political than his predecessors from both parties have been doing for years. It’s just that the term “state of the union” bears little resemblance to what actually occurs at the annual event; it’s become little more than a political circus.

Oh, sure, the pomp and pageantry are impressive, with the sergeant at arms of the House introducing the president as he enters the chamber, and people jostling for a chance to shake hands with the nation’s chief executive. But most of what follows, year after year, is a political speech in which the opposition party members sit on their hands with dour, pained expressions, while members of the president’s party leap to their feet every few seconds to shower him with applause, even if he’s only announcing the weather forecast for the next day.

The State of the Union was mandated by the Constitution back in a day when rapid communication meant a messenger traveling at gallop speed on horseback. An actual speech is not required; it can be done by written document. But since Woodrow Wilson, every president except Herbert Hoover has spoken to a joint meeting of both the House and Senate. And we don’t blame presidents for liking it; they get to bask in a national spotlight and push their political agenda.

The citizenry of the United States hardly hangs on every word. Viewership on the major networks continues to decline as Americans have so many more choices. The simple fact is that the State of the Union speech is an outmoded vehicle. A written report to Congress would satisfy the Constitution and spare everyone another political jamboree. But don’t expect that to happen anytime soon.

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