SOTU by the Numbers: 107 Applause Breaks, 18 Minutes Wasted

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Am I the only one driven nuts by how much time in the Presidents speech (or any president’s speech) is taken up by applause?

By my count, there were 107 pauses in President Obama’s State of the Union. This doesn’t include dramatic pauses, or the grand finale of applause when the speech was over. When you add up the time eaten up when no speechmaking was happening because there was too much handclapping going on, it amounts to 1,074 seconds, or just under 18 minutes. Add to that the 12-minute “pre-game” between when the networks began coverage and Obama’s speech began, and that’s a wasted 30 minutes—for a speech that should have only totaled 40 minutes, 50 minutes tops, if he’d given it straight through without breaking for applause.

There were self-congratulatory pauses so that the Senate and the House could each applaud their own efforts. Sometimes there was as little as 1 or 2 seconds of speech before another round of applause began. The longest spell of applause was for Obama’s line about not accepting “second place for the United States of America” (30 seconds), and how could you not applaud that, right? There were breaks to give a shout-out to Michelle Obama (26 seconds); to support nuclear power (18 seconds); to endorse the idea that the U.S. should export more goods (5 seconds); and to agree with the President’s comments that health care reform is still needed (24 seconds). There were three applause breaks about the commitment to bring the troops home (8, 17, and 21 seconds respectively). And on and on.

This has nothing to do with President Obama in particular. This applause mania occurs during every big speech by a president. But for the sake of efficiency, and for the sake of easing the anger of the American people, can we end this whole annoying applause charade?

We know that you know what he’s going to say well before he says it. So just let him say it and let’s all move on, perhaps even get something accomplished.