I wasn't able to watch, but just read, the President's State of the Union address, which I know leaves out much of the feeling of the speech itself. As far as such things go, this State of the Union seemed exactly what one would expect, and was generally well-written, if contradictory at times.
Yet I don't think I'm alone in feeling like such addresses no longer pack much of a punch.
Thankfully, the President didn't announce any big new initiative, but instead provided an overture of issues and wishes he has for the country—from a green economy to a growing manufacturing sector to a better, more flexible education system. There was the expected (and well-deserved of course) lauding of the military, particularly those who helped eliminate Osama Bin Laden, and the expected (but no less painful) reference to the old feminist trope of “equal pay for equal work.”
Part of the hollowness of the speech may just come from my own belief that the President's policies are a recipe for disaster for our country: That raising taxes on millionaires will stifle job creation; the green energy obsession is crony capitalism at its worst; and, the President isn't remotely serious about cutting the deficit.
But another part of the problem may be that President Obama has fundamentally damaged the entire concept of the big political speech. He gave so many of them during the 2008 campaign and its aftermath. They were so lauded, and in retrospect, so completely vacuous and devoid of any actual message or policy prescription that lasted past the final applause, that its hard to take these grandiose politic speeches seriously. They seem fundamentally inauthentic, and like a forum created only for the most base political posturing.
That's a shame, and may itself say something slightly sad about the state of our union.