Let us not mince words, nor even chop them loosely: most State of the Unions are, well, completely useless. As useless as the human appendix. As useless as the six layers of weapons-grade saran wrap in which all convenience foods now come encased. And frankly, almost as time consuming. What does a president say in a State of the Union? Mostly, that the State of the Union is swell--or at least, a heck of a lot better than it would be if you'd elected that mouth breather who opposed him last November. He introduces artfully picturesque "ordinary citizens" hand-selected by his political operatives after months of careful screening. Platitudes about America's commitment to democracy are mouthed. Freedom is praised, in the most general terms, but with a thundering delivery that suggests that many of the people in the room might disagree. Uncontroversial policies, so anodyne that they could be opposed only by an Objectivist psychopath, are unveiled. Oppositions are chided for, um, opposing the president's policies. The particulars hardly matter. But this one is a little bit different, isn't it? These days the Democrats are feeling, well, a little under the weather. I don't know whether America is looking to see whether Obama can muster a rally out of the doldrums that have lately afflicted his party. But the chattering classes certainly are. Can he do it? Unlike the previous occupant of the office, Obama is a master of soaring oratory. But State of the Unions are not a super vehicle for the presidential agenda any more. Gone are the days when a president could command the attention of virtually everyone in this vast republic of ours, merely by getting the broadcast networks to air him speaking for an hour. Most Americans will not be watching. The ones that are tend to be the highly informed voters who already have pretty set opinions. No State of the Union has delivered a poll bounce since 1998--and that was the year that America was watching, fascinated, to see whether Bill Clinton would address the issues raised by Ms. Lewinsky. Unfortunately for Obama, he's only been caught with a naked business recession. His speech may be worthy, but it will not likely be worth much at the polls. Nor will it tell us very much that we didn't already know.