Obama’s Not the State of the Union Address

Washington, DC

Gone are the days when Obama wants to talk about changing the nation. Now, he seems content to send his people out to talk to Politico about changing a speech here and there.

The speech in question is the traditional State of the Union address.

Mess with the Republicans. Keep up momentum. Accept that it takes more than a speech in front of a joint session of Congress to get most Americans, and certainly much of the Washington establishment, to care anymore.

That’s the logic that led the White House to kill the State of the Union.

The Politico item goes on to make it all sound just about as boring as one might imagine Obama will be when he gives it. In addition, should some next president opt to restore it to what some may have found to be a grand tradition, few if any are likely to remember Team Obama attempting to portray it differently.

But as for the State of the Union tradition of unveiling big announcements for a year-ahead agenda, Obama’s done with that. The country’s been done with that for a while, aides say, and the White House has finally caught up.

They believe they’ve now redefined the State of the Union model, not just for this year and next but for the next couple of presidents at least.

Ultimately, perhaps that’s the real point – a generally unpopular president now reduced to reducing expectations for a speech. It’s hard to remember but there was actually a time when Obama sought to raise expectations. But then, six or so years of not meeting them was bound to take a toll.

Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

Most of what’s in the speech they’ll have already announced as part of Obama’s two-week lead-up tour. White House aides say that may be it — they’re not interested in making big legislative asks for the GOP to reflexively shoot down, nothing on par with last month’s surprise restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba.

After all, they know they can count on the president getting that block of prime time and occupying the front pages of the newspapers next Tuesday and Wednesday pretty much no matter what they do.

“It still has to be interesting. But you don’t have to be making as many pre-announced announcements in order to drive the coverage,” a White House aide said. “The coverage is already there.”