Stuff You Didn't See on TV at the State of the Union Address
Ambassador Susan Rice reached out as far as a swan's neck to offer a handshake to Senate nemesis John McCain, who took it. That was a true Washington moment at the State of the Union address, something cameras miss. Rice showed a touch of class by saying hello to the man who took her down for secretary of state.
It's tradition. The theater comes to the circus — or the Senate walks to the House. Then come the Cabinet and the black-robed Supreme Court justices. They parade down the aisle and see long-lost friends and enemies. Who knew Leon Panetta, secretary of defense, and Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., love each other? They clasped each other in a warm embrace.
The press gallery is above the president, whom reporters can't see, but the Fourth Estate has a view of the faces of the full Congress and other branches of government gathered. It's a magnificent set piece that captures the energy, spirit and rivalries right in front of you, while the public eye is focused on the president.
I've gone to a few of these rodeos — a ritual that comes as a relief, as there are a few things left in life to actually show up for, not just check online. We spend too much time online, so I loved witnessing the scene live, studying who was with whom, scanning who clapped for what and so on. No small thing to observe the people's house assembled with greater diversity than ever. The Senate has 20 women and two black men (both appointed) who made an appearance. The citadel of democracy: The Capitol lantern was on, and everyone was home.
A gallery snapshot: new House Democrat Tammy Duckworth, a war veteran, walking on artificial limbs as the chamber cheered. Her party is grateful she just beat vitriolic Joe Walsh of Illinois.
In a pungent Massachusetts moment that called up memories, young Joseph P.
As the speech got underway, President Obama mentioned his opponent Mitt Romney, seeking common ground with the other side. Dead silence ensued with a subtext: Who was he? You talking to me?
Ebullient Elizabeth Warren, the newly elected yet senior senator from Massachusetts, sprang up to clap at every other line the president spoke. She sat next to Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a dour doctor who looks like Dr. Freud lately, reporters remarked. He didn't begrudge her enthusiasm, nor did she seem offended by his reserve.
A bit of bipartisan civility was on display, with Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York sitting with McCain and sidekick Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. Freshman Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., sat next to Sen. Thomas Carper, a Delaware Democrat. These pairings are like crocuses poking out of the snow to give you hope for spring, so deeply divided is the filibuster-frozen Senate.
Gentlemanly John Roberts, chief justice of the United States, understands civility and propriety, unlike three angry men on his bench: Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Joseph Alito. Only six members of the high court had the courtesy to come and listen to the president. The three absent men are the most right-wing appointees, so this gesture can only be meant as partisan hostility to Obama. Unacceptable, in a word. Roberts should box their ears.
Democrats Carl and Sander Levin of Michigan, one a senator and the other a congressman, sat together in a brotherly tableau. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., high-fived a colleague when Obama mentioned her bill. Democrats showed school spirit in a chorus of "Vote! Vote!" when Obama demanded bills to curb gun violence.
Downright rude was a Texan newcomer, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, who glowered even when old-school Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, rose to applaud Obama. Character is often revealed, right upfront.
And Obama? Sure, he was there, too.
To find out more about Jamie Stiehm, and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com
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