The State of the Union used to be "a monumental moment—surrounded on each side by a few days of national reflection," a time when the president could address important topics in "a relatively quiet and slowly whirring world," writes Linton Weeks at NPR. Not so anymore. Thanks to the 24-hour news cycle, Twitter, and the like, "Everybody knows all the time what President Obama thinks about everything … And everyone knows what everyone else thinks about the president—and the state of the union." In this day and age, "has the State of the Union address become obsolete?"
Weeks doesn't exactly answer his own question, but he does offer a history of the address and relates a variety of opinions on both sides of the fence. (One expert says the address has no "long-term or even medium-term effect," while another insists it "is a great tradition that keeps evolving but shouldn't be eliminated.") In a time when the SOTU has devolved into an event that inspires drinking games, "there is the danger that the address becomes atavistic, the Staid of the Useless speech in a never-sleeping Twitterverse of short bursts and shorter attention spans," writes Weeks. Still, it does give the president a good platform and a captive audience, so "maybe think of it as a long-winded status update." Click to see who tonight's special guests will be. (Read more State of the Union Address stories.)