I keep watching the State of the Nation speeches, even though I know how they tend to turn out. There are a whole lot of platitudes. There are calls for bipartisan cooperation and unity. There are bold assertions for the direction of this ship of state over the next year. There is always a little saber-rattling to do too. Mostly it would be nice to get any kind of happy convivial, atmosphere going on under the Capitol Dome in mid-January. It didn't happen this year.
Instead, we got a perky Joe Biden, clapping at most utterances from his boss and the sour but incredibly tanned face of John Boehner. Who would have guessed that two men who share a common career goal of public service, not to mention identical initials, would have such different reactions to the speech given by their commander in chief? But that's the real game afoot here: Reactions. How does one choose to respond to ideas, good or bad, when they come from "the opposition?"
If you happen to play for the same team, your job is obvious. Bang your hands together at all the appropriate pauses, and stand as often as decorum will allow. It starts to feel a little like a Catholic mass with all that shuffling about, but without the kneeling. The drama comes from the moments when everyone stands and applauds. Those are the moments of true bipartisanship. Or maybe they are simply the sound bites for the nightly news. When you sit or stand can be a very strategic thing, especially with an election coming.
Mostly, we stand when it's a "moving ahead" kind of thing. If you think it's a bad move ahead. Stay seated. If you would be embarrassed later to be the one person sitting when everyone else is standing, probably best then to stretch your legs. When Barack Obama talks Cuba, Marco Rubio sits. When Barack Obama talks Trade Promotion Authority, Marco Rubio is on his feet. If you were a Republican, you didn't get in your full cardio workout.
Meanwhile, our president continues to work on his career after he leaves office. When he mentioned, offhand, that he had no more campaigns to run, a snarky bit of laughter and applause came out of the red seats. Waiting a beat, he smirked and replied, "I know. I won both of them." It wasn't as big a show as "Oh yeah, and we got bin Laden," but don't be surprised if he's doing a couple of shows at Zanies in a few years. He's used to working that big room.