Thursday, February 26, 2009

Speechifier in Chief

Gene Healy takes a look at the incredible increase in the importance of presidential speeches over the years.
When 19th-century candidates spoke publicly, they sometimes felt compelled to apologize, as 1872 Democratic contender Horace Greeley did, for breaking "the unwritten law of our country that a candidate for President may not make speeches."

From Washington to Jackson, presidents gave about three speeches a year on average. In his first year in office, President Clinton gave over 600. Things have changed, but it's not clear they've changed for the better.

He adds that Thomas Jefferson;

disapproved of his two predecessors giving the [State of the Union address] in person before Congress assembled. Jefferson saw that practice as "an English habit, tending to familiarize the public with monarchical ideas," much like the British king's "speech from the throne."

So our third president wrote out his SOTU speeches and had them hand-delivered to Congress. The Jeffersonian custom held for over 100 years, until the power-hungry Woodrow Wilson overthrew it. Of 219 SOTUs, only 71 have been delivered in person.

This, however, is the money quote;
Today's president is a constitutional monstrosity: a national talk-show host with nuclear weapons.

No comments:

Post a Comment