When the Founders dictated that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient” (Article II, Section 3, Clause 1 of the Constitution) I doubt that they envisioned what the State of the Union has become.

For decades it was simply called “The Annual Message” and submitted in writing. It was Woodrow Wilson who popularized the practice of delivering it in person and turned it into an opportunity for him to rally the country behind his proposals.

Since then, it has morphed into a thinly veiled campaign speech, with the president’s supporters leaping to their feet at the slightest opportunity to cheer while his detractors sit stonefaced on the opposite side of the center aisle. This year’s was no different.

Even so, since we are talking about Barack Obama, it was magnificently delivered. Whatever other skills he may be lacking, he is one of the best public speakers of his generation; disagree with him if you will, but pay appropriate deference to his ability to perfectly time the delivery of an applause line or turn a deft quip at just the right moment — “Yeah, because I won both of them.” That’s a major reason why he’s the president.

Still, there were parts of it that I found disconcerting. Take the economy, the subject on which he spent most of his time. He cited a long list of positive statistics and then summarized, with a shrug and a smile, “It’s good news, folks.” I don’t begrudge him that moment. Whether his administration has been responsible or not, our recent gains happened on his watch. No incumbent president, regardless of his place on the ideological spectrum, is going to pass up any opportunity to report good news.

But he proudly included a celebration of our return to world-class status as an energy producer — primarily in fossil fuels — while heading a party which seeks to demonize fossil fuels, particularly those being produced in abundance through use of fracking. Democratic governors, such as New York's Andrew Cuomo, have done everything they can to prohibit fracking in their states (and paid a price, in the form of slower growth, as a result).

This means the president tried to have it both ways. Speaking to the whole country, he took credit for the energy boom that has provided perhaps as much as half of our recent economic growth, which made us feel good. Then, speaking primarily to his environmental friends, he took credit for the “historic agreement” with China that he says will solve climate change, which made them feel good. He didn’t explain that if we do everything he promised, it could well hurt the oil and gas boom, while if China does everything it promised, they won’t make any changes at all for 15 years. After that, they’ll “consider” other steps.

The president told us to believe him on climate change because he’s “talked to the scientists.” I demur, because so have I. The heads of our national labs have convinced me that human activity is indeed affecting the climate, but they have also convinced me that there is still a lot more they don’t understand with respect to the issue. I found the scientists far more tentative in their conclusions than the politicians who claim to speak in their name.

So, as a campaign speech, this State of the Union did its job. However, as a stage-setter for a productive final two years with the Congress, not so much.

Robert Bennett, former U.S. senator from Utah, is a part-time teacher, researcher and lecturer at the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics.