Patt Morrison for March 15, 2012

Who listens to a President?

President Obama Addresses The Nation During State Of The Union Address

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President Barack Obama, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden (L) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) delivers his State of the Union address on January 24, 2012 in Washington, DC.

President George W. Bush's final State of the Union Address


The last State of the Union Address of United States President George W. Bush on January 28, 2008. It was delivered on the floor of the United States House of Representatives in the United States Capitol.

President Clinton In The Oval Office After His Television Address To The Nation On NATO Bombing Of S

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President Clinton in the Oval Office after his television address to the nation on Nato bombing of Serb forces in Kosovo, March 24, 1999 in Washington DC.

US President John F. Kennedy (C) wipes his forehea

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WASHINGTON, D.C.: US President John F. Kennedy (C) wipes his forehead as he delivers the State of the Union address before Congress in Washington, DC, in January 1963, as Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson (C, back) looks on.

Michelle Belden/Flickr/Creative Commons

"Fireside chat," undated. President Roosevelt delivered a series of thirty evening radio speeches between 1933 and 1944. These "fireside chats" were enormously popular and helped Roosevelt gain popular support for his policies.

The State of the Union speech, the fireside chats, the Oval Office addresses – how much difference do presidential speeches really make? Not very much, according to some. In spite of the resources poured into President Obama’s 2012 State of the Union address, his approval rating only rose 1% after the speech – from 46% to 47% a week later. And forget about the argument that presidential rhetoric might convince opponents to change their minds: most of the time, a president’s ability to persuade someone to adopt a new belief only works if the listener is a member of the same party to begin with. According to today’s guest, Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein, a good speech can even prevent a president from achieving his goals.


Do you tune in when the president speaks? Would you feel a loss if the State of the Union addresses were stopped? What function do these types of public addresses serve for you?


Ezra Klein, editor of Wonkblog and a columnist at the Washington Post, as well as a contributor to MSNBC and Bloomberg

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