Defining moments in the history of the State of the Union Address (15 items)
The State of the Union address is an annual speech given by the president of the United States to a joint session of Congress. Its purpose is to allow the president to state his legislative agenda and priorities for the year to come.
Under Article II, Section 3 of the United States Constitution, the president is obligated to make the U.S. Congress aware of the “state of the union.”
As well, since 1976, the opposition party has been giving responses after the president speaks, but this is not something that is in the U.S. Constitution or mandated by any law.
We have compiled a list of 15 defining moments in the history of the State of the Union address, including responses that are either unique in substance or delivery.
1 of 15. 'Water bottle-gate"
Sen. Marco Rubio gave the official GOP response to President Obama’s State of the Union address in 2013, which many saw as his first major break on the national stage. During the speech, however, it became obvious that his mouth was becoming dry and he hastily drank from a bottle of water.
The Internet responded with gifs, memes and viral videos, all mocking the senator’s “water bottle-gate.”
Though he has tried to move forward as a potential contender for the 2016 nomination, Rubio has only seen more struggles, such as a failed push for immigration reform.
2 of 15. Enter: The tea party
Rep. Michelle Bachmann gave the first official tea party response sponsored by the Tea Party Express in 2011, and it was generally poorly received. While some, such as the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, criticized Bachmann’s aggression during a time of (what seemed to be) relative party reconciliation, most were more concerned with the representative’s presentation.
Bachmann seemed to struggle while reading what most assumed to be her cue cards, and her eyes were fixed on something other than the camera filming her. Though Bachmann said at the time that her response was in no way supposed to suggest a division within the Republican Party, the tradition has not only carried on but led to even more responses from an increasingly divided conservative movement.
3 of 15. Alito vs. Obama
During the 2010 State of the Union Address, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito was seen mouthing the words “not true” in response to President Barack Obama accusing the high court of “opening the flood gates of special interests."
In Citizens v. Federal Election Commission in 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting political independent expenditures by corporations, associations or labor unions.
4 of 15. 'You lie'
It was everything but a State of the Union. Just after President Barack Obama was inaugurated as the country’s 44th president, he gave an address to a joint session of Congress, laying out his plan to reform health care.
"There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants,” Obama said during his speech. “This, too, is false.”
This is when Rep. Joe Wilson of South Carolina pointed at the president and shouted, “You lie.”
Wilson later apologized.
5 of 15. Introducing the 'axis of evil'
Arguably the most memorable line in all of President George W. Bush’s State of the Union speeches, his 2002 speech was the first to dub Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the “axis of evil.”
In the speech, delivered just shortly after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Bush cautioned that “by seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger.” This statement came back to haunt the president when such weapons were never found.