Thursday, January 17, 2019

Quickies: The State Of The Union Address

     He 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, or either of them, and in case of disagreement between them, with respect to the time of adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper; he shall receive ambassadors and other public ministers; he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and shall commission all the officers of the United States. [Constitution of the United States, Article II, Section 3]

     The president’s duties, as indicated by the citation above, do include informing Congress about “the state of the union.” However, the relevant clause does not specify how that duty is to be performed: neither how often, nor where, nor by what means. Moreover, the “tradition” of a public State Of The Union Address, delivered in person and orally to a joint session of Congress, is far younger than most people believe: proto-fascist Woodrow Wilson began the “tradition” in 1913.

     Thus, Nancy Pelosi cannot “cancel” this presidential duty, as has been suggested by some commentators. President Trump can simply select an alternate means of conveying the information to Congress that he believes Congress should receive.

     The presidential duty of informing Congress about the state of the union derives from several characteristics of the early United States:

  • News relevant to the entire nation took several weeks to circulate, rather than being instantaneous;
  • Sessions of Congress were far shorter then than now, typically only a few weeks per year;
  • A Representative or Senator had to make a difficult overland journey to attend a session;
  • The president was the only federal official whose official duties were continuous.

     Today a formal State Of The Union Address is a relic, something that could easily be disposed of with no adverse consequences. Presidents use it mainly for televised publicity, self-congratulation, and to whip up support for their personal legislative agendas. There would be a lot less Sturm und Drang about it were presidents to return to the Nineteenth Century practice of submitting a written summary to Congress and letting it go at that.

     Mr. President: How about doing it via an email? You have an email-address list of all those clowns on Capitol Hill, don’t you? Just a thought, mind you.


Linda Fox said...

A written summary would be great - he could either deliver it via downloadable video or written text/email. Or both. I like the idea of using modern technology to bypass the Democratic eye-rolling, stone-faced, arms-folded presence in the House chambers.

It certainly would cut down on the cost of security, the "political theater", and the carefully intercut shots of the Democrats, deliberately showing stone-faced disapproval. He could tweet a link to the video, which could be posted on one of the alternative video sites, Such as Real Video

Think what a difference that would make.

Kye said...

I agree with Linda. We all know with Trump as president the media will spend as much or ore time showing the scowls of the leftists present than focusing on the president.

Adrienne said...

Better yet, he should rent the largest venue he can find and have his very own "state of the union rally."