Conservatives: Don't Let Obama Give State of the Union Address

Not all conservatives agree that the move makes political sense.

Photograph By: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A series of political commenters, led by the editor of the National Review, have a new idea for Speaker John Boehner: refuse to invite President Obama from the State of the Union address. 

The thinking behind this proposal is that it would aptly demonstrate the level of GOP discontentment with the president, in case he doesn’t already know. Rich Lowry, the editor of the National Review, told The New York Times Tuesday night that if he were John Boehner “I’d say to the president: ‘Send us your State of the Union in writing. You’re not welcome in our chamber.’”

Last week, the conservative website Breitbart suggested suggested Boehner do the same “so that the elected representatives of the people do not have to listen to, or applaud, a man who is violating his oath of office and governing as a tyrant.” Meanwhile, unnamed congressional Republicans are privately considering yanking the State of the Union welcome mat, according to Politico.

While the plan legally checks out—the Constitution simply requires that “from time to time” the president let Congress know what’s going on—the optics would be problematic. “I know many see this as a great idea, but I don’t get it,” Noah Rothman at the conservative Hot Air tweeted. “Look petty, invite bad press, accomplish... What exactly?”

Major conservative groups likely aren't impressed either. Heritage Action—which is pushing Congress to send Obama an appropriations bill defunding the order, even though he'd likely veto said bill—is, at best, indifferent to the idea.

“Rolling back the policy is the important focus and everything else may well be good as long as it doesn’t distract from the actual hard work of rolling back what he did,” Dan Holler, the communications director for Heritage Action, told Bloomberg Politics.

“Where I do think it would be harmful for the Republican party is if they allow that to be their only response,” he added. 

To be clear, this isn’t something Speaker john Boehner has endorsed, or even publicly talked about. Instead, it reads like another doomed political tactic—like impeachment or a government shutdown—that he’ll likely ignore. That may not be so be easy, however.

“Republicans broadly and conservatives specifically are looking for a way to register opposition to what the president did last week in terms of executive action on immigration,” Holler said. “And to the extent that [refusing to invite Obama] falls into that bucket I suspect we’ll hear a lot about it.”

State of the Union viewership has fallen throughout Obama’s presidency—only 33.3 million people watched his 2013 address, the lowest audience for the address since Bill Clinton’s in 2000.

“I don’t think anyone is under the impression that a State of the Union ... fundamentally changes the political playing field,” Holler said.

Given that the major networks declined to air the immigration announcement, Obama might get more attention if he was snubbed.

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