An overhaul is overdue: The State of the Union speech has become a protracted PowerPoint show—minus the PowerPoint
There’s only so much you can do with the State of the Union (SOTU) speech. Bloat has become as predictable as carnival workers’ coming up short on fingers. The essence of a good speech is getting a point across quickly and memorably.
A speech is a poor vehicle for wonky details of Washington policy. (That’s what a white paper is for, or an op-ed, or a half-day PowerPoint presentation.) An effective speech presents two or three significant ideas. Go beyond that, and it’s not a speech anymore; it’s a lecture.
The SOTU ought to be oratory, not a governance instruction manual read out loud. It ought to give people some big things to think about and send them home to seek out details. The president should set a tone, issue a challenge and highlight what he considers to be his two or three most important initiatives.
In recent decades, that’s not what the SOTU has been. It’s become the political equivalent of a timeshare sales pitch at an Orlando strip mall, without the subtlety.