George Will rejects SOTU ‘pep rally’: ‘Every president … tries to stroke every erogenous zone in the electorate’

We’re just days away from President Barack Obama’s second State of the Union address and while there is a lot of media attention focused on what direction the president will take the country in under new leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives, is there any significance to it, or is it no more than political theater?

On ABC’s “This Week with Christiane Amanpour” Sunday, Washington Post columnist George Will was soundly dismissive of the event, likening it to a “pep rally.”

“A, they’re overrated — the next morning, the country is still a complex continental country with muscular interests in politics as its own momentum,” Will said. “Between Jefferson and Woodrow Wilson, no one delivered this in person. They sent the report to Congress in writing. But, now we’ve turned this into this panorama. In which an interminable speech, every president, regardless of party — tries to stroke every erogenous zone in the electorate and it becomes a political pep rally, to use the phrase of Chief Justice [John] Roberts last year. If it’s going to be a pep rally with the president’s supporters of whatever party standing up and bringing approval and histrionic pouting on the part of the other, then it’s no place for the judiciary, no place for the uniformed military, and no place for non-adolescent legislators.”

Democratic strategist Donna Brazile said the address has more of a prophetic role in American politics.

“It’s an opportunity to talk to American people,” Brazile said. “To remind us who we are and where we’re going. This is an opportunity for the president to use scripture to give us a vision because the Bible says, ‘Without a vision, a people will perish,’ and we didn’t have that over the last few years.”


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However, New York Times columnist and Nobel Economics Prize-winner Paul Krugman found common ground with Will and agreed it was nothing more than a signal of where Obama is going.

“This is — as a political event, it doesn’t matter,” Krugman said. “It’s an event that forces the president to signal where he’s going.”

Krugman, outspoken and dismissive of almost any conservative position on a daily basis, went on to lament what he sees as the “juvenility” of politics.

“The juvenility of U.S. politics in this past year or so has just been amazing,” Krugman said. “And I think about the fact that so much of this talk about Obama having an anti-business agenda has been just because he doesn’t treat us with enough respect. I never thought that, ‘Ma, he’s looking at me funny,’ would be a rallying political cry.”