The State of the Union Address needs a new name

Today, it's an essentially meaningless speech. Let's call it the Presidential Sales Pitch instead

Edward Morrissey

Tonight, the media and the political world will gather to focus on a political tradition rich in history — and almost utterly devoid of substance. President Barack Obama will bask in the attention of a joint session of Congress and fulfill his constitutional duty to report on the state of the union, mandated in Article II, Section 3, which requires a president to report to Congress "from time to time" on our national status. But today, we're a lot more likely to hear about a president’s political status, and his political grocery list, than we are about our own status as a nation.

The politicization of the State of the Union Address didn't start with President Obama, or George W. Bush, or Bill Clinton. For this particular tradition of the national sales pitch, we can thank Woodrow Wilson. George Washington and John Adams delivered their speeches to Congress in person, but the thoroughly small-R republican Thomas Jefferson thought the spectacle smacked too much of the tradition of a monarch opening a session of parliament, and sent a written report instead. Wilson resurrected the practice of delivering the speech personally to a joint session of Congress, and political sales pitches have never been the same.

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Edward Morrissey

Edward Morrissey has been writing about politics since 2003 in his blog, Captain's Quarters, and now writes for His columns have appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Post, The New York Sun, the Washington Times, and other newspapers. Morrissey has a daily Internet talk show on politics and culture at Hot Air. Since 2004, Morrissey has had a weekend talk radio show in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and often fills in as a guest on Salem Radio Network's nationally-syndicated shows. He lives in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota with his wife, son and daughter-in-law, and his two granddaughters. Morrissey's new book, GOING RED, will be published by Crown Forum on April 5, 2016.