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State of the Union Or State Of Obama?

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State of the Union Or State Of Obama?

By Danny Schechter

New York, New York: The political classes in our country seem to relish moments of high ritual and symbolic occasions with TV news routinely bringing these events to a country more engaged with awards shows and sporting contests.

The State of the Union, the annual presidential projection of power enjoys a special status because it showcases the prowess of the incumbent to weave a self-congratulatory narrative before what is in effect a peanut galley to cheer him on. Widely understood is that the Congress is at a new low in public approval.

Even when half the office holders, cabinet members, Supreme Court Judges (minus 3) and military brass is sitting on its hands, with some glowering hostility, the acoustics make it seem as if the Speechifier-in-chief's every word is receiving a standing ovation.  His guests joined in to make it appear as if it was a pep rally or he had won the lottery.

Obama may not be a brilliant politician or program implementer, but he is a good speaker and his speech was crafted like a Hollywood script, sprinkled with humor and closing with a crescendo of bi-partisan patriotic adulation for an injured soldier---the modern equivalent of manipulative flag waving. With wife Michelle beaming love for the obsessive and sicklywarrior with his l0 "deployments," the goal was to reinforce the halo that Obama was hoping would turn around his low approval ratings.

He knew going in that he was doing it as much for his own morale and that of his posse in suits. He read the Washington Post: " Amid the avalanche of coverage of President Obama's fifth State of the Union -- he's reading the speech ! -- it's important to remember one simple fact: The State of the Union's ability to shape public perception of a president and his agenda is, um, way overrated."

The newspaper reporting this reality sandwich to the White House hopesters carried 5,069 items containing the phrase "State of the Union" appearing on its website , hyping an event that they clearly cared more about than the public.

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And that's not just for this year. The Huffington Post reported, " Public Opinion And History Agree: The State Of The Union Won't Change Anything."

Their political analysts write, "The pattern of State of the Union addresses failing to make much of a dent in public opinion isn't new, or unique to Obama's presidency. It's held largely true for the past five presidents' addresses.

A new HuffPost/YouGov poll shows the State of the Union may be of minor importance to most Americans. Only 35 percent said that they watched last year's address, and even fewer -- 6 percent -- said that they could recall its contents "very well." Another 23 percent said they remembered it "somewhat well," while a combined 70 percent said they didn't remember it very well (28 percent) or didn't remember it well at all (42 percent)."

So much for the impact of this political uber-coverage!

And what of the speech itself? The New York Times was blistering in its assessment

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"A man who entered the White House yearning for sweeping achievements finds himself five years later threatening an end run around gridlock on Capitol Hill by using executive orders, essentially acknowledging both the limits of his ability to push an agenda through Congress and the likelihood that future accomplishments would be narrow."

The National Journal was equally sarcastic, "I t was a good speech about a modest agenda delivered by a diminished leader, a man who famously promised to reject the politics of 'small things' and aim big--to change the culture of Washington, to restore the public's faith in government, and to tackle enduring national problems with bold solutions. " "

Was that was he was doing? Quite the opposite, writes Ron Fournier     who began  his report with a question, "Is that all there is?" 

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News Dissector Danny Schechter is blogger in chief at Mediachannel.Org He is the author of PLUNDER: Investigating Our Economic Calamity (Cosimo Books) available at Amazon.com. See Newsdisssector.org/store.htm.

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