As I type this, Marco Rubio is wrapping up his response to the State of the Union. And I find myself wondering yet again, as I do every year this time, no matter who is in the White House… how did this ridiculous ritual get started?
I don’t mean the SOTU; I mean the response. The State of the Union is the president fulfilling a constitutional duty — which, by the way, he can do in writing (just a suggestion). But as much as that has transformed into political theater, the response is nothing but theater.
And you know what? It always comes across as lame, no matter which party is delivering it or which up-and-comer they choose to be the face of it. It rubs our noses in the fact that partisanship is so obligatory and ritualized today that an elected official can’t even deliver a constitutionally-mandated message without the other party immediately standing up to say “nyah-nyah, that guy’s full of it.”
The artificiality of it is underlined by the fact that it is not a response at all, but a speech prepared ahead of time — a set of partisan talking points that the party wants to deliver regardless of what the president said.
Anyway, to me, the party delivering the response always comes across as petty and pointless. To me, anyway. Kind of sad, really.
Enough about that. Thoughts on the real speech, the one the president gave? Here’s an assessment from over at the WashPost:
That was an incredibly ambitious speech.
Imagine, for a moment, that President Obama managed to pass every policy he proposedtonight. Within a couple of years, every four-year-old would have access to preschool. The federal minimum wage would be at $9 — higher than it’s been, after adjusting for inflation, since 1981. There’d be a cap-and-trade program limiting our carbon emissions and a vast infrastructure investment to upgrade our roads and bridges. Taxes would be higher, guns would be harder to come by, and undocumented immigrants would have a path to citizenship. America would be a noticeably different country.
Yes, it was ambitious. About everything. I found that no particular part of it stood out for me, because he touched on so many things that he didn’t fully focus on anything. But maybe that’s just me.
I did like the communitarian touch at the end, about “the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another.”
Which of course Rubio summed up as “growing government.” Whatever. Although I’ll say that the president wanted to do so much that anyone would have to wonder at some point how we’re going to pay for it.
What did y’all think?