tv Lectures in History History of State of the Union Addresses CSPAN January 26, 2019 8:00pm-9:11pm EST
only on c-span3. next on lectures in history, stonehill college ccioessor peter uberta washington --ge's washington's statement and explores how since then stated the union speeches have evolved along with new technology, and in modern times have been used to bolster lytic platforms. his class is about 70 minutes. today we arecio: going to discuss the state of the union address, and we are going to recap a little bit. the state of the union address straddles two constitutional presidencies defined in your reading.
constitutional presidency, these are the formal rules and procedures that define our system, and the formal expectations based on the executive during the founding era. the big c constitutional presidency is one that proscribed popular leadership. the second one, the small c constitutional presidency, this is a creation of our progressive presidents and has been built up since the time of woodrow wilson. the small c constitutional presidency proscribes popular leadership, it demands it of presidents. you'll recall from your reading, of c, the formal structure the government, and the small presidencies exist
uneasily with one another in the modern area. we will focus on this later today. we discussed earlier in the semester that, thanks to our friend, governor morris, article two of the constitution has far less specificity and it then articleone -- than one? does anyone recall why? hamilton and the constitution. prof. ubertaccio: alexander hamilton and his allies want to create space within the constitution for presidents to act when the constitution is silent. we refer to that as seizing the silences of the constitution. and this was a deliberative presidents tow attain and accumulate power within the system.
and hamilton and his allies believed it should be the executive's prerogative to act when the constitution was silent, or even against the constitution if the general will demanded it, especially in foreign affairs. seizing the silences of the constitution, as you may recall, will become one of the most dangerous and controversial of presidential actions. twoelement of article that is fairly specific, but has resulted in different interpretations, is the state of the union address. this is found in section three of article two. from simply, "he shall time to time give to the congress information on the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration
such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient." so today we are going to discuss the history of this provision, how the state of the union address has evolved over time, and consider its place in modern-american political culture, and we will use jeffrey 'conception of two constitutional presidencies. of the union mirrors changes in the executive office itself. it highlight changes to our expectations of presidential highlight, and also the limits of our modern rhetorical and increasingly omnipresent president. let's start with the basic mechanics of this address. this is an annual event of state, allegedly.
convenees of congress in the chamber of the house of representatives, the diplomatic corps is present, the joint chiefs are there, the justices of the supreme court are in attendance, the first lady enters to respectful applause, and then the most important part for me is the following. [gavel strikes block] [applause] >> the president of the united states. wef. ubertaccio: why do think that particular clip is so exciting to me? not only because it would appear to be an awesome job aspiration to me, i think i could belt out, mr. speaker, the president did
united states, with an amount of these. but what do those words indicate to us? short, and it is not the thing that people are waiting for, but there is something about that clip that helps us to understand our constitutional system, the fact that he is announced by the souse sergeant at arm indicates that this is not the president's domain. this is not his house. he comes by invitation. he is escorted. the speakerhappens, of the house of representatives and the vice president of the united states, acting in his capacity as president of the senate, will put together an escort committee of legislators, and they will exit the chamber, and typically these are congressional leaders, maybe
members of congress from the president's home state, and they will escort the president into the chamber of the house. it is important to understand this, because in a system of systeme institutions, a of separation of powers, the president doesn't just walk in. this is not his government. he is invited by the house to address them, and he walks into a coequal branch of government. after the pomp, this speech takes on, today, all the hallmarks of a political rally. if there is one feature of the state of the union address we are all familiar with, it is the incessant applause. and the unusual nature, particularly during divided government where one
party controls one or both houses in the president is of a different party, if the president says something and the speaker is of his party, the and if thends, speaker is not a member of his party, the speaker remains seated while the vice president --lauds this looked awkward vice president applauds. this looked awkward during the clinton years, sometimes they don't stand, sometimes half the chamber stands to applaud if the president says something partisan. this looks more like a political rally than anything else. the washington post" reported that during george w. bush's state of the union address, or every minute of his speech there were 29 seconds of applause. so that is a lot of interruptions in a state of the union address. many people watch.
president trump commanded an audience of 46 million americans during his 2018 state of the union. oft ranks ninth in terms viewership of a presidential address before congress, and that includes all presidential addresses. not all presidential addresses are state of the union speeches. president clinton's address in 1993 was most-watched, with 65 million people tuning in. no surprise that those numbers have declined, and probably will continue to decline, if for no other reason citizens have a lot of other options when presidents are on television. those of us of a certain age will remember that when the president was on television, there were no other options, because there were three stations and each one has the president of the united states giving an address. if that seems like a long time ago, i guess it was a long time ago. today citizens have a lot of
other options to choose from when a president is speaking. it also makes it more difficult for presidents to get their message out, because so many of us are no longer tuning in. so it is not a surprise we would see that the client. there are other reasons why it might not be a surprise. remember that second constitutional presidency of 's requires popular leadership. it requires presidents to stand in the well of the house, it requires presidents to move certain bills, it requires presidents to try to grab the mental public opinion. there are a few big problems here. the first is that that large c constitutional presidency separates power. the reason i enjoyed the clip of the sergeant of arms introducing the president is because it is a reminder that congress is independently elected and has its own source of power, not
derived from the executive, and that congress itself is divided between those two houses and those two houses are rarely under the thumb of the executive, even when the president is popular. the second big problem is that presidents routinely face a congress that is further divided by political party. only franklinera roosevelt, john kennedy, lyndon johnson and jimmy carter have had one-party control of congress during their entire presidency. and you know from your reading of history that even they faced significant obstacles. the four years of the carter presidency, one might wonder if in fact the republicans did control congress, because he faced so many obstacles in getting his agenda through that institution. so even one-party control does not guarantee that presidents
are going to be successful in congress. the third dilemma here isthat popular leadership almost always predicated on the popularity of the incumbent president. becomee presidencies extraordinarily unpopular. when you think of the last two years of the presidency of woodrow wilson for example, or the last two years of the presidency of george w. bush, presidents became really unpopular during that time in office. and if that second constitutional presidency is predicated on popular leadership, what happens when the president becomes extraordinarily unpopular? and even when they are popular, when they remained relatively
they can in certain congressional districts be those unpopular, and if congressional districts are important to the leadership in the house and the senate, that is an additional obstacle presidents have in getting the legislation through congress. anything can the state of the union do here? how can it address these problems of popular leadership? what i would argue is that it can do very little, because it has become less a tool of governance and more a window into the executive's unique view into our constitutional system, and much more of a partisan address. it might be that the state of the union is part of the problem of the modern presidency. so let's talk a little bit about the history of this address, and
see if we can't understand it a little bit better, changes to it understand how it fits into our examples of modern residential leadership. the constitution, article two, section three, it did not have an equivalent in the articles of confederation. so the framers of our constitution were not pulling this from the articles of confederation. you know the articles of confederation really provided no more than a presiding officer for the executive, so there was no model there for them to pull from. the union was modeled on the king's speech from the throne, which was called in the most gracious speech in parliament. it to the queen's
speech today in honor of queen elizabeth. the most gracious speech to parliament, this was an occasion when the monarch commanded members of parliament to attend to him as he laid before them his priorities and his policy recommendations. speech ine 1775 noted, "the present situation in america and my constant desire to have your advice, concurrence and assistance on every important occasion have determined me to ."ll you thus together early this is a command, no matter how gracious the languages. this is a command that parliament attend to the king. in this language was modified a
bit, as one might expect, in the early american constitution. the new york constitution of 1777, quote, "it shall be the duty of the governor to inform the legislature at every session of the condition of the state so far as may respect his department to recommend such matter to their consideration, as shall appear to him too concern its good government, welfare and prosperity." the pennsylvania constitution was more straightforward and more similar to what we find in the u.s. constitution. "he shall from time to time give to the general assembly information of the state of the commonwealth and recommend to their consideration such measures as he may judge expedient." the impetus for the state of the union address, the language we
find in the constitution, derives in part from the expectations placed on the american executive. recall that when the office was designed, it was to be the only one that had a view of the whole, the only office that could see the needs of the whole country, whereas members of congress were expected to have more parochial concerns. they were expected to be more concerned about issues confronting their districts, their constituents or their states, and the executive was the only one that, by virtue of that position on top of the constitutional structure, it sees the entirety. it was also supposed to be inhabited by continental figures, who were to have a sense of public opinion but were not to be beholden to public opinion.
unione first state of the was very brief and very formal, and it was also the shortest on record in terms of word count. words, tered and that is like a four-page paper, lsu increase your font size. so we are talking short. washington said, "i have directed the proper officers who lay before you respectfully such papers and estimates as regard the affairs, particularly recommended to your consideration and necessary to convey to you that information of the state of the union which is my duty to afford."that is not really eloquent or memorable,
but it is a style that is in line with washington's goal to read the constitution literally and to follow it plainly. washington is doing this for what reason? why is washington so concerned about following the constitution so plainly? >> because he was the first president and knew that anything you do would set a precedent? ok, because heo: knew he was first, and he knew that everything he did was going to establish a precedent. actions, hey of his was careful about how he proceeded, and the state of the union is no exception. his addresses are very formal, ccint, and quite frankly, at the time government was just getting started so there weren't many things to
report as far as the state of affairs at that time. now washington is delivering this address in person, and that practice continues under his successor john adams. washington's average word count for his state of the union addresses is about 2000 words, not lengthy. hems was a bit less wordy, 1790 words forof his state of the union addresses. thomas jefferson, when he assumes office after the bitter nds then of 1800, e practice of giving the state of the union in person. he believes that the ceremony itself smacks of monarchy. we are well aware of jefferson's views on monarchs, and he
thought this speech was far too similar to the king's speech from the throne. i thought it might be useful, this is not king george iii, but i do have queen elizabeth ii, so at least to get a sense of style in what this looks like. we will talk about substance in a second. if you're familiar with how our presidents are introduced during the state of the union, this clip is somewhat of a shock.
>> be seated. now, what sheio: does there is, she is commending the lords to attend to her, to sit on her command. and after that she will give an indication that the house of commons is to be summoned to attend to her as well. it's interesting, but the way the british do this, neither the queen nor the house of lords's work actual, political power resides in the united kingdom. but during this address, which is very formal, there is no applause, she is actually reading the words the government has written for, the government will stand in the back of the
house of commons, the prime minister of the cabinet, the opposition, they all stand in the rear after being summoned by the queen. door iny do slam the the face of her messenger, who is called the black rod, but they open it, the black rod will enter, and command them to attend to her majesty. this is all a little bit too much for thomas jefferson. it's a little too much to allow a president and executive to command the attendance of representatives of the people. practice. the incidentally, thomas jefferson is not a great speaker. a is a great writer, he is phenomenal thinker, he is not the best at public oratory. so that may also have had something to do with him ending this tradition. but traditions of george washington don't die easily,
because the two-term tradition that ends up being written into the constitution, nevertheless jefferson is able to end this tradition. when he stops appearing before congress, it will be well over 100 years before another president will appear before congress to deliver the state of the union. presidents are freed from the burden of oral delivery, and as a result they become much more verbose. theerson's first state of union had just over 3000 words. to over 10,000l under millard fillmore, who appears from time to time, irregularly in this class. 19,000d average about under the progressive theodore
roosevelt, and hit a high of 22,614 words under the conservative william howard taft. our most loquacious modern andident is bill clinton his speeches delivered before congress would average about 7400 words, just to give you a comparison of the different. the last time a president submitted a written address was jimmy carter, upon leaving office in 1981. and that written address was, in the modern era, significant, 33,000 words. orderly-delivered y--delivered was about 8500. president trump's was not the greatest, not the smallest. >> what is the difference
between the written and the oral addresses? prof. ubertaccio: the answer between what is the difference is only relieved that they are longer, but that is just by style. there is nothing constitutionally ordained in the idea that a written state of the union would be longer than an orally-delivered state of the union. when you don't have the pressure to speak publicly, you can write as much as you want because then it is some poor clerk's work, and you deliver it. the second part of the questi so cannot president if they choose deliver their state of the union address in a written fashion? what do we think? can a president if they so desire send their state of the union in a written form? >> yes. prof. ubertaccio: yes, they can.
yes, they can. it is simply a choice. president carter gave his last, in 1981, in written fashion. in the early 1970's president nixon experimented with written addresses and they are all lengthy, although he gave most of his state of the union addresses in person. it's a good question because the demands of the second constitutional presidency, the one that proscribes popular leadership, makes it difficult to imagine how presidents can avoid delivering it in person. spectacle demands the even if it is largely unsuccessful at times. carter in 1981 was on his way out of office, having been defeated by ronald reagan, so that is an exception. but presidents certainly reserve the right. thatonstitution only says
they shall do this from time to time, it doesn't mandate that they do it either written or in person. note that millard fillmore is sending 10,000 words and his written address and bill clinton it israging about 7000, ironic because one of the modern critiques of the state of the union addresses that they are nothing more than long laundry lists of proposals, but of course the written addresses were far longer than those that had been delivered in person. the difference, beyond the theth, is the expectation, expectation of a personal address with its command that congress do things, and s overt appeal to
partisanship, the commitment presidents are expected to make in their state of the union is very different than what we saw when they issued these addresses in writing. so there tradition, even if they are shorter than their written counterparts, presidents lay before congress a very long list .f policy proposals the difference is that in the earlier addresses, it appeared presidents were aware that they alone did not have power to demand compliance with the goals, whereas our modern we havesuggests that, talked about the presidential magic wand and i president just waves that magic wand they will get congress to do what they want. they often try to and they realize the magic wand isn't working. it rarely, rarely does. washis in-person practice
innstated by woodrow wilson april 1913. believed the constitutional separation of powers was a flaw in the american constitutional system. he spent a good part of his life critiquing separation of power. he was not alone in this. interestingly, we can consider william howard taft his conservative predecessor. 1912sent his december address to congress in the present fashion -- in written fashion. there is a fascinating passion -- passage.
taft, in the 1912 election which pitted a radical, theodore roosevelt, versus woodrow wilson and the conservative william howard taft, the defender of the constitution. ,e wrote in the 1912 address the rigid holding a part of the executive and legislative branches of this government has not worked for the great advantage of either. there has been much lost and the machinery due to the lack of cooperation and interchange of views face-to-face between representatives of it the executive and members of the to do legislative branches of government. intended that they sense be separated in the of not being in constant effective touch and relationships to each other.
the legislative and executive each performed its own appropriate function. these functions must be corrugated. -- coordinated. passagea fascinating from william howard taft. it is something we expect wilson to have said. there was a yearning for greater cooperation, greater coordination between branches. the address wilson gave in april 1913 was not an official state of the union. in the written form, the state of the union was delivered in december of the calendar year at that time. the practice of a december state of the union did not change until 1934 with a changing congressional calendars. now they are given mid-to-late january. occasionally early february, at start of the congressional
session. woodrow wilson believed a strong party leader could overcome what he viewed as it the defect of our constitutional system. during the early years of his presidency, he dominated the democratic party and congress. it lent credence to his views that a popular party leader could overcome the obstacle embedded in the constitution. he did not formally change the constitution. presidents are not prime minister's. nor are they monarchs. he was able to temporarily overcome constitutional norms without changing the terms of the constitution. he appeared frequently before
congress to talk about a range of issues in addition to his formal state of the union. because of that, he created an expectation of presidential government -- governance. of executive leadership that is capable of the out words and rating socialliar and economic disparities and political differences. hey created that expectation. waive the wandd and congress and the states would do a presidents bidding. this view has largely stops. through democratic and republican administrations. despite the unhappy experience of wilson's last two years in office. promises ofthe popular leadership, of which the
state of the union is an example, but also the perils of popular leadership. 1918ay remember the midterm election, his second midterm of the second term as president, represented a projection of woodrow wilson -- projection of woodrow wilson. the powericans gained of house of congress. what good is popular party -- if aip if presidents presidents party does not control congress? the senate rejected his proposal for a league of nations. they did this despite his efforts to tour the country, to rally public opinion to his cause. -- helped the
president would be the repository of public opinion and that would force congress to act in the way he saw fit. he was no longer the repository of public opinion or popular. he built a model of presidential leadership that is based on popularity. in the final year in particular for wilson's presidency, it is a lonely one. reality, hisrim transformation of the state of the union was complete. feature of aentral wilsonian view of government and executive power. it was not immediate. the 1988on to
repudiation of the wilson's presidency, the country returned to normalcy in 1920 and his conservative successors do not follow his lead. calvin coolidge appeared once before congress. coleridge, hoover, they are not delivering state of the union in person but are reverting to the earlier jeffersonian tradition of delivering it in writing. since the presidency of frank has becomeelt, it customary from the -- for the president to deliver the address before a joint session of congress. is cleare constitution the president shall give to congress information on the state of the union, the context of the speech during the modern era has changed radically. -- dramatically.
one of the most important developments is under lyndon johnson. johnson brings the speech into prime time. this allows the address to be given directly to the american people. increases thelly number of people paying attention to the state of the union address. first televised state of the union occurred in 1947 after 20 years of radio coverage. was -- welidge remember fdr as the president who harnessed radio but it was really coolidge to harness the new technology. his presidency it was the first to use radio effectively. franklin roosevelt was more
effective and at the context had changed dramatically. roosevelt is also the first to call this the state of the union. it had been called the annual address. roosevelt is at the first to popularize the term every year. harry truman is the first to appear on television to deliver the state of the union. those technological advances started to make the speech less of an address to the congress to thee of an address american people from congress. the house of representatives becomes a cool television set for presidents to directly address american people. a different interpretation from the state of
the union that we find in the constitution and what early presidents expected. formalizes this by moving the speech into prime time. if you are talking directly to the people, why not do it when most of them can watch? >> on this hill which was my home, i am spared by old friendships. total agreement between the executive and the congress is impossible. total respect is important. mr. ubertaccio: we know a lot about president johnson. those are significant words. payment except for his office and policy proposal. of the union is
delivered in january 1969, the final. a short time before richard nixon would take the oath of office. ofs was delivered at the end the term, a custom they no longer subscribe to. president carter delivered it in writing. ronald reagan chose a farewell address. none since carter formally had a state of the union with january as the final couple of weeks in office. note the wilsonian conception. not only is he moving it into prime time so millions of americans can watch. while he'd knowledge is -- acknowledges it can never get
together perfectly, total respect is importantly. that means respect for the presidency and policy issues. of1969, we are coming off significant legislative enactments by johnson. height of an activist federal government. the union was designed, in part, to harness the power of the executive. the opposition party was not going to allow an increase in viewership to happen without a response. in 1966, republican congressional leaders gave the first official response to a state of the union address. it was a 30 minute televised address by everett dirksen and gerald ford.
these were the republican leaders of the house and senate. this tradition takes off. in fits and starts they did not always do in the early years, by the 1970's, it is a tradition and routinely given by a member of the opposition party immediately following the state of the union. kennedy gavel joe the opposition response to president trump in 2018. sometimes they are given by congressional leaders. other times, they are given by up and coming members of the party. sometimes governors of the address. it is a way to highlight its message in a response to the state of the union by a president. after moving into prime time --
what more can you do to innovate the state of the union address? what can they do to reinterpret or reimagine this constitutional directive? when ronald reagan entered office in 1981, he did not allow his essential conservatism to theent him from expanding spectacle that the state of the union had become. master of stage craft and at storytelling. he adds something we had not seen before. just two weeks ago in the midst of a terrible tragedy on the potomac, we saw american
heroism at its finest, does -- dedicated rescue workers saving victims and we saw the heroism of the one of our young .overnment employees, lenny's he saw a woman on the helicopter line and dived into the water and dragged her to safety. [applause] prof. ubertaccio: president reagan adding this element. guests and honored introducing them from the floor. of great stories american heroes. he is turning the state of the union into something we might expect on television, great
stories with a people, very little to do with the constitutional directive, but a the secondith constitutional presidency which demands popular leadership. in this instance, the folks who are being introduced are nonpartisan. everyone has a reason to want to applaud and organize them. -- and recognize them. presidents do not miss opportunities to score partisan points. something similar accord during the presidency of the clinton in the 1996 address. see if you can spot the difference. >> i would like to give you an
example. his name is richard dean he is a 49-year-old vietnam veteran who has worked for the social security administration for 22 years. last year, he was working in the federal building when the blast killed 159 people. he reentered the building four times and the saved the lives of three women. he is here with us this evening and i want to mechanize richard and applaud his -- recognize richard and applaud his public service and heroism. [applause]
richard dean's story does not end there. november, he was forced out of the office when the government shutdown. the second time the government shutdown, he continued helping social security recipients but was working without pay. richard dean and his family and all of the people working every day for the american people, i challenge all , let'sin the chamber
never shut the federal government down again. [applause] prof. ubertaccio: what is the difference between that clip of ronald reagan and this clip from bill clinton? bill clinton uses his story into an account to score points for his political party. prof. ubertaccio: clinton takes this moment, not unlike the reagan moment, of national unity , a certifiable hero, someone who raced into the oklahoma city building as it was turning into rubble to rescue people on multiple occasions. he then uses that to make a political argument about not shutting down the government. that is very different. if we watched all of the applause, you would have seen behind president clinton is the
republican speaker. republicans controlled the house and senate in 1996. one party stands wildly to applaud will another party sits emily. clinton scored. he scored politically. the address, the lore of politics is too great for many presidents. this is wilson's small constitutional presidency. for partygned leadership. presidents do not avoid the opportunity to use the address to try to score political points. from that formal address that george washington would have given. we are now into the latter
that small constitutional presidency where presidents are using opportunities to advance a political agenda. where are we today deco -- today? instances that are hallmarks of today's address. the first is unusual and does not happen often. as of the address has become more partisan, it is perhaps something we should expect to see again in the future. >> there are those who claim members would ensure illegal immigrants. this is false. i am proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally. [booing] not true. isf. ubertaccio: that
congressman joe wilson yelling at president obama, you lie. that is not a formal state of the union address, but a presidential address. the president is speaking about the health care bill that he is advancing. wilson apologizes for the outburst. it was considered a breach of decorum. there is that. the face on a nancy pelosi during this is priceless. this is considered a real breach. yet, as the address has become more partisan, it is perhaps not unusual that the house would look more like the house of commons during a debate, if you have ever seen prime minister's questions. every week on c-span on sunday evening. i am usually watching a clip
from prime minister's questions, much to the chagrin of my children. we get british civics before the big game. they get let each other and hoot and holler, typically not how business in the american house is done. this resembles that more where you have a member of congress speaking out during the course of a presidential state of the union. let's watch this clip. is a state of the union by president obama in 2010. >> with all due deference to separation of powers, last week, the supreme court reversed a law that i believe will open the floodgates for special interest including foreign corporations without limit. [applause]
i do not think american elections should be bankrolled by powerful interests or by foreign entities. they should be decided by the american people. i urge democrats and republicans to pass the bill to help correct this. prof. ubertaccio: what do we notice about this clip? what is our take away? anything unusual? grace? >> one of the justices was shaking his head. prof. ubertaccio: he did not agree with president obama's assessment of what the supreme court had decided.
what was his reaction? >> cannot stand up and shake his head. prof. ubertaccio: he did not stand up and he shook his head slightly. that look i give you when i am like really? that slight shake of the head. if yououthing not true slowly down. u.s.ve a president of the who says in all due deference and lodges a broadside against the supreme court. what does the supreme court do in response? >> they do not stand up. prof. ubertaccio: they never stand up. presidents know this. do when it is an unobjectionable point. arehe outset, presidents introduced and everyone applauds out of respect.
president introduces a hero in the audience, the supreme court will stand. when it is an objectionable and nonpartisan overturned the president is making, the court will respond accordingly. for the entire your address, when presidents are issuing policy proposals, members of congress are plotting and at the supreme court sits and does not respond. why? why do members of the supreme court sit in silence? >> they are supposed to remain above the political debate. prof. ubertaccio: they are supposed to remain above it all. why? >> they are supposed to be an independent judiciary who decides what is constitutional and not and not trying to get involved in the nuanced politics. prof. ubertaccio: their commitment is to the rule of law. it would be detrimental to rule
if the president said something like i want you to pass a campaign finance bill and half the supreme court applauded and the other half did not and then they were called to adjudicate the issue, which we know, they will be called upon to do because most political issues in policy -- policy and up as issues before the court. it is unusual for a president to call out the court in this way when they are seated in front of , wellnable to respond partisans stand up around them in the plot. -- and applaud. that is an awkward scene. , youjustices after this will not see justice alito at a state of the union since this time. he has stopped going. he did not hide his frustration. he stopped attending. justice scalia had stopped
attending because he thought they had turned into childish affairs. applause,ee the justice thomas said, the viewing audience cannot hear the things that are said under the breath of members of congress. many justices viewed this as a waste of time. only four attended the most recent state of the union address. outburst is a small example that has not really been repeated cents. it does not happen that often. a recent state of the union addresses encourage the wilsonian view that the problem with our system is that the constitutional separation of
powers. separate institutions. state of the union's encouraged the idea that feature of our constitution is a defect. are and should be political saviors who can dictate policy demands and deadlines to congress. the reality is, many presidents what presidents can learn from political scientists. they do not have a magic wand. that is my memo to the president. that your staff convinced do you have, it does not exist. it does not mean your office is without power. you have significant power. the relative powers of modern presidents are far more vast than the 19th-century predecessors.
easily force congress to bend to their will. this does not prevent them from trying. them fromt prevent insisting they can overcome the limits of their office through a skilled and politically adept state of the union address. what they might gain in political prestige through this annual spectacle is something we lose in our understanding of their constitutional limits. before i take questions, let's conclude with shakespeare. rossiter was a scholar. he wrote a book called the american presidency.
he believed the cold war created incredible burden on presidents. he wrote an epigraph to his book with a line from mcbath, me. i heard a voice cry sleep no more. he sent a copy of this book to president kennedy. replied, he thought rossiter have the wrong epigraph. fromdy suggested dialogue henry the fourth. in this scene, glenn dower proclaims, i can call the spirits from the vast deeps. is, why, so can i, so can any man, but will they
come when you do call for them? the state of the union address in modern american politics is glenn dower. we can use this speech to summon the spirits of the american people. the preeminent example of one presidents can call the spirit of the people. , asking thehotspur important question, will they come? will they follow? , the state of the union falls short. substitute for the constitutional separation of power.
it attempts to bridge the divide through increasing use of popular and partisan leadership. there is no evidence it actually meets its targets. let's take a few questions before we break up for today. what do you think? do you have about presidents and the state of the union address? president ishe invited into congress to speak to them. has a president ever been turned down or asked not to come? prof. ubertaccio: great question. not for a state of the union address, no. that would be difficult to imagine.
the institutional gridlock that would be necessary for a congress to turn down the request that a president makes for a state of the union. times during the reagan presidency where he negotiated with the speaker of the house on other addresses. theill was a protector of institutional prerogatives of the house. he did not think fondly of presidents using the house to lobby for legislative items outside of the contours of the state of the union. no. a decline indicate civic discourse that i would prefer not to imagine. you can probably tell, i am not a big way -- a big fan in the way the state of the union has been reinterpreted. i think one presidents make the request to intend -- to attend,
it is congress's duty to invite them. >> do you think the state of the union should go back to being a nonpartisan speech? is that a possibility? prof. ubertaccio: what do we think about that? what do we think about going ork to a written address asking presidents to tone down the partisanship? is that a possibility? >> i doubt it. spectacle is all about the relationship between the president and media and how the media gets help by the president . the president needs to have the spectacle in order to get the popular though. it stinks now but i do not think it will change. prof. ubertaccio: i suspect you are right. i suspect it would be hard to convince presidents of this is
no longer in their best interest. presidents tried to control the political narrative. what they would reasonably believe is their failure to go and deliver an address in person would allow someone else to control the narrative. -- you had a reading by george will. he would love for presidents to go back to that earlier era because he is a critique of the wilsonian view. practically speaking, it is unlikely we will go back to a written form. could presidents tame the partisanship? that is their choice. i suspect the pressure is on agenda.advance a narrow
pressures are heavy. questions? you said nobody since carter has given a state of the union at the end of the term. what happens that year? is it just passed over? does the new president give it? prof. ubertaccio: what we find is -- carter delivered one at the end of his term. ford did, johnson did. nixon resigned so that complicated. -- that complicates it. presidents can deliver one at the end of their term. it is in january. the outgoing president can choose to deliver a state of the union the way they sought lyndon johnson do. they can choose to send one in writing. they can choose not to give one.
a lot of presidential addresses in a short time. you could have an outgoing president in early january of a state of the union and the incoming president gives an inaugural address in late january. they often will ask congress to also appear before them early in their term. that is not an official state of the union. it is a presidential address. sometimes they choose to do that. other presidents have opted for a farewell address. this goes to the tradition of george washington. not all presidents choose to do this. the last two presidents -- president george w. bush did not. there is flexibility. all right, everyone. thank you. that is it for today. enjoy your week. i will see you next monday.
[captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> you can watch lectures in history every weekend. we take you inside college classrooms to learn about topics ranging from the american revolution to 9/11. and is saturday at 8:00 midnight eastern on c-span3. ♪ >> c-span, where history unfolds. in 1979, c-span was created as a public service by america's cable television company. today, we bring you unfiltered coverage of congress, the white ande, the supreme court, public policy events in washington, d.c. and around the country. c-span is brought to you by your cable or satellite provider. ♪ >> next, documentary film maker
ken burns sat down with smithsonian institution david skorton to talk about films. -- to talk about how he uses libraries and are fine -- and archives to research films. they discussed the importance of learning history. this smithsonian library hosted this 40-minute event. [applause] >> ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage, ken burns and the secretary of the smithsonian, david skorton. [applause] [applause and cheers]