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January 27, 2014 10:00 AM SOTU Blues

By Ed Kilgore

Another year, another State of the Union Address.

Perhaps it’s just a sign of advancing age, but I’ve grown to dread these events. All these advance hype, whether or not the speech represents any notable departure in presidential intentions or even rhetoric. All the solemn advice offered after the text has surely been put to bed. All the almost-ironic rituals of insincere bipartisanship and phony bonhomie.

This year’s SOTU will likely represent an agenda of items the president thinks he can accomplish on his own, perhaps with a shout-out to an immigration reform contingency that Republican feel compelled to entertain as a possibility, perhaps a defiant defense of the Affordable Care Act, perhaps the long-awaited peroration on inequality (though the latest buzz is that Obama will return to the less threatening language of “opportunity,” which suggests some extensive focus-grouping). The president will be subject to vast exercises in armchair psychology as his mood, his energy-level, his “resolve,” are evaluated by way of how he delivers a rehearsed prepared text.

Personally, I have trouble engaging in such evaluations, being constantly distracted by the idiotic ritual of clapping and not clapping, standing and not standing, and the full range of mime-like facial contortions, to which we will be treated by the Vice President and the Speaker of the House sitting just behind the president.

Once the agony of the SOTU is over, of course, we get to watch the canned Response of the Republican Party, which is mostly remarkable when it’s so bad that it damages the lucky designee’s national reputation for years to come. This year, of course, we’ve got one Official and two unofficial responses, with Cathy McMorris Rodgers (a poster person for No There’s Not Some Republican War On Women) delivering the former and Rand Paul and Mike Lee strangely competing with unauthorized (Paul) and authorized (Lee) Tea Party responses. It will be fun—or at least fun-like in the momentary absence of unpleasantness—to see how many times each of them will utter the word “Obamacare,” but I’m guessing each will easily go into double figures.

Having made my disdain for this event and its trappings clear, I will, of course, live-blog the sucker in its entirety tomorrow night. I’m open to suggestions about how to prepare, beyond the usual expedients of a nap and some serious Zen meditation.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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