Monday, January 24, 2011

Of Tea Leaves and Tea Partiers

All the Very Serious People are chock-full of advice for what President Obama should say tomorrow night in the State of the Union speech, ranging from what spending should be cut to who should be sitting with Michelle Obama in the gallery. And of course the Villagers in the Beltway will be all gathered around to tell us what the president will say, then what he said, and what it all means.

George F. Will got all schoolmarmy yesterday on ABC, tut-tutting about it being a pep rally and therefore it was unworthy of the attendance of the Supreme Court and military leaders. His objection is noted; however, it’s also new-founded. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t upset when the Supremes showed up for Presidents Bush and Reagan. If he’s worried about the Court being seen as pawns in a political rally, perhaps he should let them know that it’s only at a State of the Union speech where they have to pretend to be oh so above it all; when it’s conservative events, why, heck, no problem. I guess the difference is that the State of the Union is supposed to be non-partisan but invariably is, whereas with fund-raisers, there’s no pretense.

There will be a Republican response, read by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who has been hailed over the last year as the guy with the roadmap to fiscal sanity by proposing massive budget cuts on everything. He’s seen as their mainstream response. Then there’s Rep. Michele Bachmann, (R-MN), fresh back from her first trip to Iowa in pursuit of her dream of running for president, who will deliver the Tea Party’s response. Her challenge will be to do it in such a way that she doesn’t bear a startling resemblance to one of the members of Fred Phelps’ clan.

So it should be fun to watch, at least for the theatre, because that’s what it is. I’m hard-pressed to think of any time in my life where the State of the Union speech actually changed the course of governing or initiated a piece of legislation that hadn’t already been negotiated and refigured within an inch of its life. What it really is is the formal kickoff of the 2012 presidential campaign. Have at it.