I watched the president’s State of the Union address on Jan. 30. When did this event turn into a reality show using applause to award guests with the most horrific life stories? We met everyone from parents who lost daughters to the murderous MS-13 gang, to a heroic soldier who saved a comrade-in-arms after he was severely wounded in an ISIS booby-trapped building, to a North Korean defector and amputee, specially flown in to remind us of the savagery of that regime.
There were lots of tears, soulful looks and enough clapping to challenge the old “Queen for a Day” applause-o-meter. But there was also the distinct feeling that the guests were being used … but for what? As props? To jazz ratings? To show President Donald Trump’s usually sublimated empathetic side? To stoke fear, since almost all the stories involved immigrant gangs, terrorists, suffering and death?
I felt for these people, I really did, and was awed by their heroism and stoicism. However, I thought their tales and the audience reaction superfluous to the event which, at 1 hour and 20 minutes, was the third-longest in history. With the average American’s short attention span, is this really the way to go?
I know Trump didn’t start the special “guest in the balcony” idea. Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush had their fair share of them, and the practice supposedly goes back to Saint Reagan. I say, let’s stick to business and leave the heart-rending stories for another time — perhaps a special ceremony at the White House where it might be less of a contest to see who hurts most and sympathizes more.
At State of the Union addresses, the opposition party always comes off looking foolish. How could the Democrats sit on their hands and not stand and applaud promises to create more jobs, strive for cheaper drug prices or spend $1.5 trillion on infrastructure? On Monday, Trump called this behavior “un-American” and “treasonous.” Of course, that’s ridiculous. The Dems were simply mimicking what their GOP brethren did whenever Bill Clinton and Obama delivered their SOTU addresses. The more apt adjective is “childish.” Likewise, watching Nancy Pelosi make faces and deliver acerbic asides to her seat-mates rendered her more middle school-like than esteemed.
Talking of childish, if I had my way, I’d ban attendees from bringing smartphones to the event. You could see our elected elite using them when TV cameras went to wide shots from the rear. Are tweeting/checking tweets and eyeing sports scores more important than national initiatives? If the congressional chambers were a classroom, I’d throw offenders out on their ears.
Then there’s the question of the elephant in the room. The “Russian thing” grows by leaps and bounds as the Mueller investigation continues, so how could Trump avoid the hard evidence of an unfriendly alien power interfering in our democratic processes? He made no mention of Russian hacking of Democratic campaign emails, the pollution of social media with agitprop generated by Russian bots or the Russian-directed attempts to hack into voter registration files in 21 states. How can the party in power continue to ignore this issue, especially since we expect a reprise of the attacks in October and November? Secretary of State Rex Tillerson admitted as much on Wednesday. Isn’t this foreign meddling a bigger threat to our republic than football players choosing to kneel during the national anthem?
This brings me around to questioning the patriotism of the Grand Old Party. It may be wonderful to salute war heroes and announce yet another increase in the blubbery defense budget, but what is being done to defend us against the obvious Kremlin threat to our electoral processes? Why is the GOP spending so much time vilifying the FBI, the Justice Department and our intelligence agencies while making so little effort to learn what really happened in 2016 to torpedo Hillary Clinton and boost Trump? You don’t have to be dubbed Sherlock to deduce that something sinister was afoot in all of those secret meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, at first denied. Why wasn’t this threat relevant to the state of our union?
Despite objections from our intelligence community, the White House released the infamous Rep. Devin Nunes memo last Friday. Right-wing media had hyped it as the smoking gun that would undermine Mueller’s probe. It turned out to resemble the Super Bowl halftime show — “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Folks, when a person of interest like Trump campaign aide Carter Page is spending so much time talking to the Russians while they’re simultaneously hacking into our election system and social media, that’s an appropriate use of a FISA warrant. If you don’t agree, I’m afraid you’ve checked your patriotism at the door.