The State of the Union address by our Presidents of late is purely theater.
Perhaps actor and great communicator President Reagan made it that way. I don’t recall his predecessors presenting the type of drama to the event that he did. In fact, one year, Richard Nixon sent a written message to Congress, did not address them on the Congressional dais.
The Democrats stood up and applauded President Obama too many times this year. The Republicans kept their butts glued to their chairs. Two years ago, the same could be said, just change the names of the parties, in terms of behavior as President Bush addressed the same body as the Constitution requires.
It may have some importance for some of the American public. President Obama was poised, thoughtful and even though I am a fan of his, largely ineffectual to this member of the American public.
Lyndon Johnson was a horrible President in terms of how he came across to the American public. I had the opportunity to visit his Presidential Library in Austin in late 2008, and was very impressed with how effective and strong he was behind the scenes, based on recordings and documents that are part of the public record there. (Go visit if you are in Austin, it is interesting!) Admittedly, all Presidential Librarie on the public side have the role of being cheerleaders of a sort for the particular POTUS, but one can visit them and think with a critical mind about what is presented and come to some conclusions. LBJ knew how to work people.
Major things that were accomplished during Johnson’s time in office were not visible to us mere citizens until he had them crafted with the key leaders from both sides of the aisle on Capitol Hill. This includes Viet Nam, which was his downfall, but also includes major civil rights and such social services as Medicare. Agree or disagree with the policies and laws he got passed, the guy made an impact and got things done. And much of it was in public until it was a done deal.
This President is too smart for his own good, just as his immediate predecessor was too dumb for the public good. Both have Harvard degrees, as do I. (Go figure—i.e. a Harvard degree don’t necessarily mean squat, certainly true in my case.)
The journalist Lou Cannon covered Ronald Reagan from his time in Sacramento as California Governor through RR’s tenure as President. Cannon nailed it, in my opinion—President Reagan was emotionally intelligent in terms of how he dealt with people. He may not have been the brightest bulb on the tree on other measures, and he had the presence of mind to surround himself with people who shined brighter in their roles as they worked for Mr. Reagan.
Being POTUS is a tough job, and I prefer someone who has the various intellectual capacities sitting in that chair than someone who lacks them.
What I think was first called “The Bully Pulpit” by Theodore Roosevelt just over 100 years ago is not enough.
You also have to be an SOB with the folks down Pennsylvania Avenue. And that is not an intellectual exercise. Or an eloquently presented speech.
Being smart helps a great deal. Emotionally smart.