1998 was the year I decided I’d thereafter aimlessly channel surf during the State of the Union address. The painfully long-winded and shamelessly dishonest former President Bill Clinton delivered that year’s crappola fest, causing me to decide maybe it’d be best to just catch an occasional glimpse of the festivities instead of enduring the whole excruciating thing.
So every year since then, I’ve channel surfed around the speech, and then I read the transcript of the speech in its entirety afterward (It’s easier to stomach without the theatrics), and I’ve found that no matter who’s president (or from what party they may be), the mindless self-promotion and shameless dishonesty never changes.
Nor does the blatant disregard for the Constitution.
Article 2, Section 3 of the Constitution reads, “He [the president] shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary occasions, convene both Houses …”
You’ll notice it doesn’t say, “He [the president] shall once a year go on TV and blow a bunch of smoke into the nation’s underpants.” Nor does it say, “He [the president], shall once a year gather both Houses of Congress, so the people from his party can leap to their feet at every applause line, while those opposing him shall sit with their arms folded tightly against their chests and scowls on their faces.” Nor does it say, “Then after he [the president], blows all that smoke up the nation’s underpants, smug, know-it-all media people shall endlessly tell the nation that smoke had indeed been blown into their underpants. (All that smoke in the nation’s underpants being the nation’s first clue.)
You’ll also notice there’s nothing in Article 2 Section 3 about the State of the Union being communicated via a grandiose, self-possessed, self-obsessed, narcissistic speech. It only says the information has to be delivered to Congress, “from time to time.” Why, the president could just as well perform this duty via a letter, a postcard or, even, (and I’m ashamed to even think this) in a tweet. And when you get right down to it, Article 2 Section 3 clearly states assembling the House and Senate should only be done on “extraordinary occasions” (“’Cuz the prez wants to engage in narcissism for its own sake,” is hardly an extraordinary occasion.)
My point is, Madison and the boys made their intent quite obvious in Article 2, Section 3. Madison and the boys wanted the president to regularly communicate with his co-equal branches of government, because Madison and the boys believed subsequent generations of elected leaders would work together toward common goals, because Madison and the boys believed subsequent generations of leaders would be intelligent (or at least sentient) adults.
Silly Madison and the boys.
So, as I read this year’s State of the Union transcript, I couldn’t help but wonder how Madison and the boys would’ve worded Article 2 Section 3 if modern media and technology were available to them. …
“He [the president] shall yearly assemble Both Houses of Congress so he can promote himself, worship himself, and fecklessly engage in half truths and outright lies. He [the president] shall wildly and shamelessly overstate his accomplishments, completely ignore his failures, get the occasional not-so-subtle dig in on his opponents and request things he knows have a snowball’s chance in the Caribbean to pass. Furthermore, his supporters shall wildly clap and rise to their feet needlessly at every applause line, while his opponents shall glower disdainfully, and the whole thing shall be televised on as many channels as possible, so when he (the president) is finished, (roughly nine and a-half days later,) over-reactionary people with more hair and teeth than brains can endlessly tell citizens that ‘Yes, smoke had indeed been blown into their underpants.’”
Boy! Good thing Madison and the boys weren’t as cynical as marginal 21st century columnists, huh?
Craig Carter is an Ontario resident and can be reached in care of The Argus Observer, 1160 S.W. Fourth St., Ontario, OR 97914. The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent those of the Argus Observer.