Issues & Insights
Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead

The State of the Union: Whatta Show! Whatta Sham!

Wow! Whatta show!

A centenarian Tuskeegee airman honored and promoted, next to his 13-year-old grandson, a potential future Space Forcer.

A Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded to the King of Conservative Talk right there in the gallery. (And, Melania, if you want to speed things up next time, try Velcro.)

An adorable 2-year-old who survived birth at 21 weeks, illustrating the preciousness of life in the womb.

An equally precious elementary school kid from Philly granted a scholarship.

A surprise appearance by the courageous, “rightful” president of Venezuela.

The grieving brother of a man murdered by an illegal immigrant protected by a sanctuary city.

The beneficiary of a job ostensibly created by an enterprise zone.

One service family mourning its husband and father, the victim of a murderous terrorist taken out by U.S. forces, and another reunited before a nationwide audience.

Chants of “Four more years! Four more years!” and “USA! USA!” from the floor of the People’s House.

A presidential snub of the speaker of the House. Followed by her downsizing the traditional over-the-top introduction of the commander in chief. And, in a stunning act of disrespect and disdain at the close, theatrically rending her copy of his address.

And in the midst of it all, a speech. At least one thinks so, although it can be hard to remember.

All the cute kids, devoted moms, brave servicemen, celebrities and interpersonal drama and levity lending the once-solemn State of the Union the air of a cross between a reality TV show, an awards ceremony and the Price is Right (“Juan Guaido, come on down!”)

And what a sham. Underscoring a simple reality: The SOTU a relic whose time has long past.

At least in its current form as an epic braggathon; a mind-numbing, diner-length policy menu; and a collection of tear-jerking human-interest features, the standard length of which – Tuesday night’s tome weighed in at one hour and 17 minutes – strains the attention span of even the most committed viewer.

Plus required repeated rips of separate sections by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, not known for her ability to tear phone books in half.

Like our politics, SOTU is both unserious – and deadly serious.

It’s unserious in its annual spectacle of exaggerated cheers and stony silence from opposing sides of the aisle, depicting the deep divides in our politics.

It’s unserious in the resulting certainty that a large proportion, if not all, of its proposals will go unfulfilled.

“We must rebuild our nation’s infrastructure.” Don’t hold your breath in the face of the current partisan bitterness and visceral disagreements over how a multi-trillion venture would be funded.

“(O)ur already strongly guarded southern border, where, as we speak, a long, tall, and powerful wall is being built.” The Baja-to-Rio Grande Wall, as envisioned by President Donald Trump, will never be constructed. Not even Republicans will fight to fund it.

“I am calling for bipartisan legislation that achieves the goal of dramatically lowering prescription drug prices.” The parties have competing versions.

“Pass the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunities Act, because no parent should be forced to send their child to a failing government school.” The battle for school choice is being lost, as ascendant teachers unions dig in their heels, and the number of new charters drops, not rises.

It’s unserious in its hyperbolic claims. “The years of economic decay are over.”  Oh, really? With, despite strong employment, economic growth not having topped 3% for a single year during the Trump administration? With out-of-control deficit spending and rising debt portending a future day of reckoning? With demographic winter on the doorstep with the almost certain long-term, Japan-style secular stagnation – if not full-out economic collapse – it promises?

“And we will always protect your Medicare, and we will always protect your Social Security. Always.” Always? With Medicare’s Trust Fund projected to run short of obligations within two years of the end of the next administration and Social Security’s a few short years afterwards? And the crippling tax hikes it would take to preserve current benefits, with no political appetite for privatization that could put the programs on solid footing?

“Our military is completely rebuilt, with its power unmatched anywhere in the world, and it is not even close.” Yeah? The Russians, with their advanced hypersonic nuclear weapons and new footholds in Syria and Venezuela, and the Chinese, with their rapidly modernizing force and emerging regional dominance, may beg to differ.

And the State of the Union is deadly serious in that, like our government, it never addresses the real issues confronting our nation: The precipitous decline in family and business formation. The resulting epic drop in fertility. The war on men and boys that has plunged half our population into existential crisis.

Instead, in our politics we get obsessions with abortion, gender madness, multiculturalization, climate change and free everything for everyone.

Donald Trump got elected because everyday Americans were convinced he could make progress on the issues they cared about. They want real, bipartisan action on those issues.

Not a show. And certainly not the sham SOTU has become.

Maistros, a messaging and communications strategist and crisis specialist, is of counsel with Strategic Action Public Affairs, and was chief writer for the Reagan-Bush ’84 campaign, three U.S. Senators, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at

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Bob Maistros

Bob Maistros, a messaging and communications strategist and crisis specialist, is of counsel with Strategic Action Public Affairs, and was chief writer for the Reagan-Bush ’84 campaign, three U.S. Senators, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at


  • Trump could find the cure for AIDs and cancer, find the solution for the unified field theory and invent a spaceship that can travel faster than the speed of light and democrats would still condemn him.

    Moreover, I’m convinced that if Jesus Christ were alive today democrats would demand that he be crucified.

  • SOTU is always a show. This Never-Trumper should know that. It hasn’t “become” a show. It’s time to return it to a written letter sent to the Speaker and the VP and leave it at that.

    • The number of gallery call outs got ridiculously out of hand.

      A tight speech focused on an honest assessment of progress and challenges facing the IS is called for.

  • Wow, what a whiner you are. We heard the same nonsense from whiners during and after the Reagan years; “Geez, things aren’t really that good. Here are some statistical gymnastics with just enough half-truths in them to convince you your life is actually miserable!” Even if merely looking around with your eyes open demonstrates things are indeed not just a little better–but way, way better than but a few years ago. The SOTU certainly could go away and no one would miss it. Certainly the petty ‘Response to the SOTU’ should go away immediately; it was a dumb tradition to start and an insult to whomever holds the Presidency no matter which party. Just plain dumb. The President is supposed to be everyone’s President and he’s asked to address the Congress…so then you go out and club him for doing so? Get rid of the whole show, and let’s get on with the hot Civil War. It is clear Americans hate each other with a deadly passion. So let’s have it out and get it done with.

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