I want my State of the Union!
What? Nooooo. I need my State of the Union fix.
I want my State of the Union! (Stamp foot, stamp foot).
If I have not mentioned it before then let me explain why I love the State of the Union address. It is republican anti-pageantry at its finest. The first time I saw one I marveled at how self-consciously plebeian it was.
My only frame of reference is the Queen’s Speech opening a new session of parliament, which is dominated by comic pageantry ranging from Black Rod banging his mace on the Really Big Door of the House of Commons (after being rejected because, you see, the queen or her representatives are not allowed to set foot in the people’s house); to House members traipsing obediently to the House of Lords where sits the reigning monarch in all her finery grasping a speech written by the governing party that might contain policies and goals utterly opposed to the ones she read in “her” last speech.
Not so in the freewheeling land of the Minutemen.
Here, the president of the United States, who possesses more power in the wart on his little toe than have all the monarchs of Britain since the Windsors moved into survival mode, wears no finery unless a suit and a tie can be considered finery.
His introduction to the members of the House and Senate, where await also every Supreme Court member not on life support and the nation’s military leaders, is deliciously blue collar.
“Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States!” bawls the sergeant at arms. He says nothing about the Worthy, Excellent or otherwise Majestic personage about to grace our presence. Just plain old “the president.”
After this ungenerous introduction, the president displays proletarian good nature while enduring a gauntlet of cheers and distinctly undignified backslapping on his way to a podium where raucous and inelegant cheering raises the roof.
Then follows the delicious spectacle of half the members, including the Speaker this time around, sitting on their hands as the president declares his priorities and tells the nation how great he’s doing. This refusal to applaud the president’s legislative goals, or alleged achievements, is conclusive rebuttal to silly charges of dictatorship levied at every president.
Nobody’s sitting on their hands in Pyongyang when the Dear Leader delivers an applause line, you may be sure of that. Nobody sat on their hands at Nuremberg.
Whether the particular president delivering the address is speaking wisdom or nonsense, is irrelevant.
Reagan, Clinton, Obama or Trump, I greatly enjoy this annual show. So much do I enjoy it that I have long held that the opposition should not be granted a televised response. The night is the president’s. Let him be.
So, Madame Speaker, don’t you even think of messing with my Jan. 29th.
The date is booked, the kettle will be on and the Doritos near at hand.
My kids are scattered now, so I cannot make them watch it, but I will be there, and there had better be something to be there for.