Quick, what's the most famous quote uttered by a president in his State of the Union address? Don't worry if nothing comes to mind because nobody takes this annual orgy of empty political promises seriously.
In point of fact, there have been a few memorable SOTU lines. President Bill Clinton's admission that "the era of Big Government is over" came from his 1995 address following the Republican takeover of Congress in the 1994 election.
But even the most knowledgable political pros would be hard-pressed to come up with another historic quote first spoken during the chief executive's performance of his constitutional duty to provide information to Congress on how the nation goes.
My fellow Americans
Beginning with LBJ's tedious drawl — "My fellow Americans, I come to you tonight with ..." — and the shopping list of Great Society goodies that followed, SOTUs were turned into political sugar highs for the chattering classes.
The president stands in the well of the House and recites his glorified talking points with Washington worthies from all three branches assembled before him. Everybody knows it's all BS but plays their respective parts.
Lots of clapping ensues, the television people get a host of reaction takes showing congressmen laughing, Supreme Court justices exchanging knowing glances, and senators sleeping.
Then it takes the president forever to leave the chamber, the opposition party delivers an even less-memorable response and the nation goes on with its business as if nothing really happened.
Nothing did happen
That's because nothing that is said by anybody during a SOTU makes the slightest difference to anybody anywhere in the entire universe.
Is there a better way for the president to do what the Constitution requires by way of informing Congress about the State of the Union?
How about this? Instead of a formal speech, the president stands before Congress and the nation and has to answer five questions each from the speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader, with no answer allowed to go longer than two minutes (the House minority leader stands behind the Great Man with a cattle prod to enforce the time limit).
Sure, it would still be meaningless rhetorical drivel, but at least everybody would know from the outset exactly how long the misery will last, which ought to make it a little easier to endure.
On today's washingtonexaminer.com
Columnists/Cal Thomas: Jay Leno leaves "The Tonight Show" on a high note.
Columnists/Sean Higgins: Look for the union label to see how NLRB will rule in 2014.
Columnists/Gene Healy: Most Americans shrug at SOTU spectacle.
Columnists/Walter Williams: Income inequality and the politics of hate and envy.
In other news
The New York Times: Spy agencies scour mobile phone apps for personal data.
The Washington Post: Negotiators unveil new farm bill that will save $23 billion on food stamps.
Time Magazine: Competing messages muddle GOP response to Obama SOTU.
USA Today: Report finds Afghan troop literacy lags.
Talking Points Memo: Obama SOTU message is it's time to move on from Reagan.
The Washington Monthly: The corporate free-speech racket.
The American Prospect: Now it's time to talk about Chicago's tale of two cities.
Mother Jones: No more Mr. Nice President.
The American Conservative: A GOP immigration plan to satisfy nobody.
The American Thinker: Guns don't kill people, people in Democratic precincts kill people with guns.
Powerline Blog: Senate Democrats are swimming upstream.
The Weekly Standard: The Burr-Coburn-Hatch health care reform proposal.