He (the president) shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.
— Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution
The presidential address known as the State of the Union is upon us. Think about how this report evolved over time. Prior to Woodrow Wilson, only George Washington and John Adams spoke to Congress, thus most presidents simply submitted a written report. Calvin Coolidge was the first to deliver the address on the radio, while Harry Truman’s address was the first broadcast on television. I imagine the introduction of both of these media affected the message – just as the instantaneous nature of today’s climate of multimedia outlets.
Even though the Constitution distinctly states the president addresses Congress, there is no doubt in my mind that the growth in technology has transformed the event into the original intent of the framers of the Constitution – the president addressing the people by delivering a report to Congress.
Given the today’s climate and recent events in Arizona, some members of Congress decided to sit together. Although the gesture is both noble and symbolic, numbers suggest that the vast majority will continue the ongoing tradition of sitting with their party.
The stage is set for another reenactment of a political pep rally featuring the mentality of stand to the right, stand to the left, stand up site down fight fight fight. Count me in as one support columnist George Will’s comments on a recent This Week (ABC):
Every president, regardless of party, tries to stroke every erogenous zone in electorate. And it becomes a political pep rally, to use the phrase of Chief Justice Roberts last year. If it’s going to be a pep rally, with the president’s supporters or whatever party standing up and braying approval, and histrionic pouting on the part of the other, then it’s no place for the judiciary, it’s no place for the uniformed military, and it’s no place for non-adolescent legislators.
For me, that is a sad commentary on our elected officials – that the Capitol Hill occupants continue to believe that the president is addressing them, thus not the people. Then again, I understand their belief system through this unidentified quote I saw last week – Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your party.