Tuesday night’s State of the Union address by President Clinton was a long and rambling oratory about dozens of new policy aims, goals and ideas. The speech lurched from brief mentions on everything from education and Iraq, to the economy and sending John Glenn back to space. In the end, so much was said that very little was of actual substance. It was a missed opportunity for Clinton to give the American people definitive and complete ideas on how to better the nation’s state of affairs.
The speech was less a statement on the Union’s state and more a pep rally. It seemed as if the speech had something of interest for just about everyone listening. The result was a monologue full of ideas, but with few details. Perhaps the speech’s many meanders were necessary to keep the audience’s attention – by not getting bogged down in the details of say, Social Security or how to afford the expansion of NATO eastward, people’s short attention spans would not be tested. Or perhaps the many diverse ideas were needed to show that the president was not mired in the current scandal and was overflowing with energy and momentum.
Regardless of what Clinton’s intentions were, the result was a lengthy (though shorter than his 80 minute speech a few years earlier) and rather boring speech. With the Congress controlled by Republicans, Clinton’s ability to pass legislation depends on his relationship with the legislature. His greatest tool in passing his legislation is the bully pulpit. It is this bully pulpit he was on Tuesday night, but little in the way of preaching was there. Perhaps our expectations were too high after all that recently has developed, but an opportunity to give Americans a blue print for the next year was definitely missed.