Hadley, it’s even worse than you say. In the Westminster system, a Throne Speech is monarchical theatre dressing up political reality: In a Commonwealth country whose government has a parliamentary majority, the Queen or her viceroy is reading out the legislative agenda — ie, most of this stuff is gonna happen, and soon.
The SotU, on the other hand, is not a legislative agenda in any meaningful sense: It’s monarchical theatre without the underlying political reality, the worst of all worlds. The president is not proposing policies so much as striking attitudes according to his needs of the moment — the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” sham being the most obvious last night, but much of the rest (fiscal responsibility, pro-business policies, etc) falling into the same category.
And, aside from all that, as monarchical theatre it sucks. If you’re going to have an annual affront to republican virtue, you could at least have Barney Frank in knickerbockers and full-bottomed wig walking backwards shouting, “Hats off, strangers!”