A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The State of the Union Address

As I watched the President's State of the Union address tonight, some thoughts have occurred to me. Rather than comment on the specifics of the President's speech and the Democratic response, allow me to make some more mundane observations.

First, some history: George Washington gave the first State of the Union address on October 8, 1790. Thomas Jefferson stopped the practice of delivering the address in person, because he believed it smacked too much of monarchy. He simply sent a letter to Congress. Woodrow Wilson reinstated the practice of personal delivery in 1913.

The speech generally outlines the President's accomplishments in the past year and casts a vision for the future. It is generally upbeat, and is frequently interrupted by lots of applause, mostly by the President's own party, though there are some standing ovations by all in Congress, when noncontroversial statements are made. At times those on the opposite side of the aisle are seen to be shaking there heads in disapproval when issues are mentioned that fall along party lines.

Justices of the Supreme Court attend as well, but do not applaud in order to remain impartial in political matters, though they did applaud tonight when the President publicly thanked Justice Sandra Day O'Connor for her years of service.

Now for some observations, not on this or any other State of the Union address in particular, but on the State of the Union phenomenon in general:

1) The State of the Union address does not fulfill any profound political purpose; it is one big pep rally, where the "home team" gets first crack at stating why they have the winning game plan with the "visitors" getting the last word.

2) In the State of the Union address and in the subsequent opposing party response, both sides say the same things: we will keep you safer than those on the other side of the aisle, we will spend more money on you then they will, and it will not cost you any more money.

3) The proposals made in the address and the response speak of high and lofty goals with no mention of the details on how to achieve those goals.

4) Both sides criticize the opposing party, but never their own.

5) Both sides call for bi-partisanship, but on their own terms.

6) The 24/7 news media covers the event infinitum ad nauseum.

7) In spite of this, the State of the Union address is a necessary thing. It is an opportunity to hear from the President and those who differ. Having just returned from Cuba, where political speech is allowed only when it echoes the Communist Party line, it is quite a gift to be able to speak so freely, and continue a debate so necessary in a democratic society. If politics is the discussion necessary to discover the goods we have in common, then the State of the Union address and all such speech is the life-blood of the democratic body.

Just some mundane thoughts.


Brennan said...

Minus the problem of ad naseum, I must say that the main points that were covered sounded really good, according to my Canadian (Well, Ruetgers news, I think, so it's whatever that is.) news source, that Bush had plans for dealing with health care and energy sources. And I also think that it's interesting to hear Bush's point that America is too dependent on oil...in light of how much of an energy crisis America is in right now. (And the rest of the world, too, in its own right.) Anyways, I don't remember if he said anything about education that I recall, but obviously he's trying to deal with issues on the table right now that are at the forefront of a lot of people's minds, and he did talk about some of those issues.

Allan R. Bevere said...

I also think the comment concerning our dependence on oil was good. The problem is that our oil situation is so bound together with many foreign policy issues, that it is difficult to imagine that something effective will be done in the near to rather distant future.