Walter Schapiro: Will Obama's State of the Union Rise Above the Cliches of a Stale Speech?
A single White House speechwriter may have full rein in composing an inaugural address that strives for eloquence, or in crafting a presidential sermonette marking a national tragedy such as the Challenger disaster or the Tucson shootings. But a State of the Union inevitably is a bureaucratic document thematically marred by speechwriting by committee. Cabinet agencies pleading for a few sentences (marking, say, the recent passage of the food safety legislation) combined with the political necessity of pleasing constituency groups (prediction: Barack Obama will include a shout-out for immigration reform) help produce theme-less puddings of presidential prose.
As a former presidential speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, I am certain what the Obama wordsmiths first did to prepare for this year's address. They immediately went back and studied all the prior presidential State of the Unions that came on the heels of stunning rebukes at the polls....
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