FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

A Campaign Finance Proposal: Let’s Do Away with SOTU

Well, Trump blinked. In his standoff with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) over the 2019 State of the Union address, the president finally conceded that he doesn’t get to deliver the speech before a joint session of Congress unless he’s invited to do so — technically by the House and Senate, but as a practical matter by Pelosi herself. She’s going to wait until the ongoing “government shutdown” ends to invite him. He’s going to impatiently await that day.

It’s not very often that I agree with any politician, let alone Pelosi. When I do, it’s usually on “even a stopped clock is right twice a day” grounds. This matter included. I don’t really care WHY she withdrew the invitation. I just hope it stays withdrawn. Forever.

The Constitution requires the president to “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.”

It does not require the president to do so in the form of a live speech. While the first two presidents (George Washington and John Adams) gave State of the Union speeches, the third (Thomas Jefferson) just sent a written report — as did every subsequent president for more than a century, until Woodrow Wilson revived the speech ritual.

Radio, then television, transformed the State of the Union address from mere constitutional busy work into something else entirely: A free campaign commercial for the sitting president and a shorter one for the opposition party.

The sitting president gets as long as he cares to take — Bill Clinton is the record-holder at 89 minutes — to harangue his cabinet, the Supreme Court, and both houses of Congress, in front of the American people, on all the major broadcast TV networks and cable news channels). The opposition party gets to respond in kind, usually at much shorter length, with a likely future presidential contender sometimes chosen as that party’s face.

Now, I am not a fan of campaign finance law. In my opinion, anyone who wants to donate his or her money to a political candidate should be allowed to do so in any amount.

But that body of law does exist, and the value of, say, two hours of prime time television on all the biggest challenges (not counting the “newsy” countdown stories and post-speech “analysis”) far exceeds maximum legal campaign contributions limits. If all of the declared candidates for the next presidential election were given “equal time,” that might make it legal. But it would also be boooorrrrring.

It’s 2019. The president of the United States doesn’t have to schlep down to Capitol Hill to deliver a speech. He can fulfill his constitutional duty with a written report. Or, heck, with a constantly updated web site that automagically updates statistics revealing the “state of the union.” If he wants to speechify, he can embed a YouTube video or set up a Google Hangout.

End the “State of the Union” dog and pony show. Permanently.

More articles by:

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
September 13, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
The Age of Constitutional Coups
Rob Urie
Bernie Sanders and the Realignment of the American Left
Anthony DiMaggio
Teaching the “War on Terror”: Lessons for Contemporary Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: They Are the Walrus
T.J. Coles
Jeremy Corbyn: Electoral “Chicken” or Political Mastermind?
Joseph Natoli
The Vox Populi
Sasan Fayazmanesh
The Pirates of Gibraltar
John Feffer
Hong Kong and the Future of China
David Rosen
The Likely End to Roe v. Wade?
Ishmael Reed
When You Mess With Creation Myths, the Knives Come Out
Michael Hudson
Break Up the Democratic Party?
Paul Tritschler
What If This is as Good as It Gets?
Jonah Raskin
Uncensored Tony Serra: Consummate Criminal Defense Lawyer
Ryan Gunderson
Here’s to the Last Philosophes, the Frankfurt School
Michael T. Klare
The Pompeo Doctrine: How to Seize the Arctic’s Resources, Now Accessible Due to Climate Change (Just Don’t Mention Those Words!)
Luke O'Neil
I Would Want To Drink Their Blood: God Will Punish Them
Louis Proyect
The Intellectual Development of Karl Marx
Tom Clifford
How China Sees the World
Kelsey Hawkins-Johnson – Negin Owliaei
Who’s Burning the Amazon?
Yasin Khan
Rideshare Drivers are Employees, Not Contractors
Ralph Nader
Big Business Lies Taught a Watchful Donald Trump
Binoy Kampmark
The Sacking of John Bolton
Andrea Maki
Wild Love Preserve Founder: Our Path Forward
Jeremy Kuzmarov
The War in Eastern Ukraine May be Coming to an End But Do Any Americans Care?
Tim Davis – Stan Grier
Protect the Sacred Grizzly Bear, Follow Those Who Know Grandmother Earth
Clark T. Scott
Super-Delegated and Relegated
Jim Britell
Lessons From America’s Greatest Grassroots Campaigns 
Howie Hawkins
Workers Need More Rights and Economic Democracy
Ramzy Baroud
‘Justice is Indivisible’: Screams of Israa Ghrayeb Should Be Our Wake-up Call
Jill Richardson
It’s Not About Your Straws and Your Light Bulbs
George Wuerthner
Montana’s Wilderness Deficit
Colin Todhunter
Officials Ignore Pesticides and Blame Alcohol and Biscuits for Rising Rates of Disease
Volker Franke
Me First and the Loss of Compassion
Adolf Alzuphar
Why is the Left Without a Single Elected Official in LA?
Kim C. Domenico
All We Are Saying, Is Give Peace A Chance (Bring It Home!)
Jennifer Matsui
The End of Aquarius and The Dawn of a Death Star: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Missy Comley Beattie
Never Forget
James Haught
Prodding ‘Nones’ to Vote
David Swanson
For the First Time in My Life I’m Against Impeaching the President
Nicky Reid
Yemen as Arabian Vietnam
Kenn Orphan – Phil Rockstroh
Bearing Witness at Aeon’s End: the Wound Becomes the Womb
Fred Gardner
Homage to the Tabloids
Yves Engler
RCMP Attempt to Silence Critics of Trudeau Foreign Policy
Stephen Cooper
Hempress Sativa: “Rastafari Should be Protected”
David Yearsley
Joie-de-Job: Staying High, at Work
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail