The Terrible Incentives of the State of the Union
Biden could have signaled to Americans and Ukrainians that the moment called for something different. Instead he gave us a laundry list.
While I don’t technically belong to the Pundits Union, I still feel somewhat beholden to the contract. And the day after the State of the Union Address, if we’re obliged to write, we’re supposed to write about it. Fortunately, today’s Morning Dispatch does a really terrific job of covering the speech in a way that frees me up a bit.
On the other hand, I still feel obliged to chime in.
One problem is that the speech is already vanishing from my memory like a Polaroid picture in reverse.
In fairness, this happens to most such addresses. They’re all billed as huge events, then by the time Sunday shows roll around Chuck Todd or George Stephanopolous says, “It’s hard to believe that it was only this week that the president delivered his State of the Union Address. But I suppose we’d be remiss not to talk about it.”
But Biden is particularly ill-suited—or maybe perfectly suited—for what we’ve come to expect from the State of the Union. He’s like some W.W. Jacobs character who asks the monkey’s paw to make him a memorable speaker. The paw grants the wish, but what people tend to remember are his malapropisms and logorrhea. Ask me about most Biden speeches or my bus trip to Port Arthur, Texas, and the answer is pretty much the same, “Not much happened except for some weird stuff and it took forever.”