August 12th, 2020


Trump Should Take His State Of The Union Address Away From Congress --- And The Swamp's Sideshow

Bill Whalen

By Bill Whalen

Published Jan. 18, 2018

Last year's SoTU.

At last report, California Rep. Maxine Waters is telling reporters she won't attend President Trump's State of the Union Address ("Why would I take my time to go and sit and listen to a liar? Someone who lies in the face of facts, someone who can change their tune day in and day out," she told a tv interviewer. "What does he have to say that I would be interested in?")

Also boycotting the Jan. 30 address: Georgia Rep. John Lewis and Florida Rep. Frederica Wilson -- like Waters, members of the Congressional Black Caucus -- Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer and Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal.

As for those in attendance, the goal is to turn the joint session of Congress into a Beltway version of the Golden Globes Awards. California Rep. Jackie Speier is urging female members to dress in black (one wonders how many others will bring Oprah big-head cutouts?).

If that sounds like a rough night for Trump, it gets worse: Megyn Kelly will be involved in NBC's coverage of the event.

At this point, it's worth remembering two things:

First, there's nothing in the law that says Trump has to go before Congress and engage in such televised theatrics.

Article II, Section 3, Clause 1 of the U.S. Constitution stipulates that the President "shall 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."

Only since 1947 has this been called "the State of the Union Address". Only since 1965 have Presidents delivered said address via primetime television.

The second point: nothing in the law says that Trump has to deliver the "information" in Washington.

My suggestion: now's a good time for this President to break with recent tradition and make two major alterations what his predecessors have done the past half-century.

First, Trump should deliver not one, but two addresses.

And deliver both well beyond the Swamp.

One should be on the economy. Here, he has a good story to tell. And if not for the President's self-defeating distractions (the tweets, the books, the alleged vulgarities), more Americans would already know the narrative: robust economic growth, more than 2 million jobs created, unemployment at a 17-year-low, stock markets booming, tax cuts realized.

My suggestion: give the address at the Detroit Economic Club, traditionally a venue for Presidents and presidential hopefuls (then-candidate Trump appeared there in August 2016).

Why Michigan? Because there's a good local hook (just the other day, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced that it's investing $1 billion in a Michigan truck factory and giving its workers bonuses in response to the Trump tax cut).

Also, the short-term policy consideration. As the home to the Fraser sinkhole and the Flint water crisis, Michigan is a case in point for what Trump hopes will be a lead achievement this year: a bipartisan infrastructure deal.

The second Trump address: foreign policy. If not the Reagan Presidential Library, then perhaps the U.S. Air Force Academy. Or perhaps both venues, if the White House wanted to do one speech on diplomacy, the other as the world's peacekeeper.

Trump went down this road last month, declaring a new national security in this speech at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center (it's about a 10-minute walk from the White House).

The 2018 version of that speech? First, to underscore his commitment to a Reaganesque military rebuild (U.S. defense stocks climbed 27% last year – seven points higher than the S&P average – in anticipation of the Pentagon getting an appropriations hike. Second, there's the matter of the "---hole" controversy. Setting aside the partisan silliness, there's a serious question of weighted immigration that Trump needs to address (if the President's smart, he reached out to my Hoover colleague Edward Lazear, who's been studying the interaction between economics and immigration for years now).

The fallout, should the President swap out the traditional State of the Union Address for something different? Democrats in Congress will howl; the media will accuse Trump of weakening democracy by denying the public the video spectacle.

But consider that spectacle. The opposition party is more interested in scoring points than hearing what the President has to say (no different from the Obama or most of the Bush 43 years, by the way). The address will receive raves from Fox News pundits and a hearty thumbs-down (or some other digit) on CNN and MSNBC. No different than any other day in the life of the Trump presidency.

For a President who claims he wants to change Washington's culture, here's a chance to match his choices with his rhetoric. Giving the American people more freedom? That should include giving them back the final Tuesday night in January.

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Bill Whalen is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he studies and writes on current events and political trends. In citing Whalen as one of its "top-ten" political reporters, The 1992 Media Guide said of his work: "The New York Times could trade six of its political writers for Whalen and still get a bargain." During those years, Whalen also appeared frequently on C-SPAN, National Public Radio, and CNBC.