Rich Galen
The President is scheduled to deliver the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives at 9 o'clock tomorrow night.

I thought that title was soooo clever, until I found an Associated Press story which was headed:

At Obama's midpoint, an altered State of the Union

I assume I saw that before I started writing, so I'm crediting the AP.

If you have trouble getting through to anyone in Your Nation's Capital today or tomorrow, it is because the lines are being tied up by every lobbyist, every industry association, every labor union, and PR firm trying to find someone - anyone - who can get a treasured word, phrase, or semi-colon into the speech so credit can be claimed, and fees justified.

Any dial tones which may be remaining are being grabbed by reporters calling people like me to find out what I think will be, should be, oughtn't be, and/or won't be in the President's address.

The State of the Union (which insiders refer to as the SOTU) is required by the U.S. Constitution which in Article II, Section 3 requires:

"He 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"

George Washington delivered the first such address on January 8, 1790 according to a CNN article. At that time the U.S. Capitol was in New York City. CNN also reminds us that the "State of the Union" address was not called that until Franklin D. Roosevelt used that phrase in 1935. Until then, it was known as the "Annual Message."

The Annual Message was delivered in person by John Adams (following Washington's example) but starting with Thomas Jefferson's first SOTU in 1801 and ending with William Howard Taft's last annual report in 1912, the Annual Message was submitted in writing.

According to notes by historian Gerhard Peters for the American Presidency Project:

Woodrow Wilson delivered the 1913 message in person until his failing health required the 1921 and 1922 messages to be written.

Calvin Coolidge's first (1923) was an oral message but his remaining SOTUs (1924-1928) were submitted in writing as were all four of Herbert Hoover's reports (1929-1932).

Franklin D. Roosevelt established the modern tradition of delivering an oral State of the Union beginning with his first in 1934. Exceptions include Truman's 1st (1946) and last (1953), Eisenhower's last (1961), Carter's last (1981), and Nixon's 4th (1973).

According to the Clerk of the House's webpage, Lyndon Johnson's State of the Union address on January 4, 1965 was the first to be televised at night. Prior to that, Presidents had delivered the speech during the daytime.


Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at Mullings.com.