Shadowland | WHAT REALLY HAPPENED

Shadowland

The State of the Union speech is a somewhat squishy national ritual. Since Franklin Roosevelt, presidents have delivered it early each year in-person to a joint session of congress, with every other dignitary in government on hand — except for one cabinet officer designated the “lone survivor,” who sits it out elsewhere in case, say, the Capitol gets blown up. Before Woodrow Wilson, presidents customarily sent over a written message. Article II, Section 3, Clause 1 of the constitution only stipulates that a president “from time to time” shall report to Congress on how the nation is doing.

Lately, it’s mostly just a made-for-TV special, like the Oscars, allowing a lot of familiar faces to preen before the cameras for the home-folks. Ronald Reagan introduced the gimmick of showboating heroes or victims of this-and-that seated up in the galleries, which has naturally devolved into a maudlin, cringeworthy feature of the show. But often presidents use the occasion to drop a ripe phrase on the big audience that captures the spirit of the moment: “The era of big government is over” (Bill Clinton); “the axis of evil” (G. W. Bush); FDR’s “four freedoms.” In 2020, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced an instant op-ed closer feature to the proceedings, ripping up Mr. Trump’s speech behind his back in a striking display of pique, much applauded by the avatars of rising Wokesterdom, who had only days earlier seen their half-assed impeachment attempt flop.

Kinda looks like our current president, Joe Biden, will skip the grand show this year. Too busy playing “Mario Kart” with the grandkids, or something like that. The Washington press corps has given him a pass on it, apparently. There’s no chatter, no buzz on the cable channels or in The New York Times, though a few newsies have begun to whine about Mr. Biden’s general unwillingness to hold a routine press conference with freely-pitched questions — not hand-picked, vetted ones, as the president’s handlers have insisted.

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