That’s how Peter Robinson, a former Reagan speechwriter, describes the State of the Union address. I talked with him and a few others about what they expect from, and what they hope for, both Obama and Paul Ryan tonight. Read the piece here:
The SOTU as we have come to know it — half pep rally, half national psychodrama, an hour-plus of standing ovations punctuated by pieties, economics-by-anecdote, and the Lenny Skutnik du jour — is actually comparatively new, with little basis in the law… But, lamentably, returning to an originalist SOTU, as Robinson would like, is infinitely unlikely. So here are some plausible options for Obama:
1. Move right: “If he doesn’t, he self-immolates,” warns Clark Judge, another former Reagan speechwriter…
Paul Ryan should try to find a visual way to represent the advantages of conservative economic policy. Winston points to Reagan’s 1988 SOTU. He began the speech with a three-foot-high stack of papers beside his lectern; midway through, the aging president lifted individual bundles from the stack, noting the massive thickness and weight of the continuing resolution and budget report Congress had sent him. Clark Judge calls Bob Dole’s 1994 response, which included a graphic, spaghetti-like representation of the labyrinthine structure of Hillarycare, the only time a SOTU was “upstaged by a reply.”
“We never overcame the chart,” was Hillary’s famous epitaph for her namesake health-care plan.