Tom Foreman | BIO
Reporter's Note: Following his big speech in Arizona, President Obama is preparing for his upcoming State of the Union address. For the record, he has not asked for my help, but since he has all these letters, I can’t help but think he will consult them in my absence. Ha!
Dear Mr. President,
I have been following this discussion among your congressional pals about a new seating arrangement for your State of the Union address - the idea that members of the two major parties should mix and mingle instead of camping on either side of the aisle like the warring armies that they are.
This is an excellent idea.
The long growing trend with these speeches has been toward a kind of Bad Congressional Dinner Theater; a Melodrama on the Potomac complete with heroes, villains, and a hissing and hooting peanut gallery. Members of the party that holds the White House beam and cheer too often. Those from the opposition sulk and sit on their hands. It’s kind of funny in that both sides seem to think they can shape the public’s views of policy this way. I mean, we’re not all that bright out here, but give us a little more credit than that…
Frankly, I wish the State of the Union could be a little more like some awards shows and everyone would be asked to hold their applause until the end. This point-by-point endorsement by clapping seems silly – a kind of grandstanding by the audience.
This is supposed to be a moment in which you explain where we stand, where you want to take us, and give us some hint of how you want to get there. If people want to clap or boo every two minutes they should go to a ball game.
It is interesting to me that presidents used to send over only a printed copy of this speech; they did not deliver it in person at all. That’s not a bad idea either; and I’m not saying that just for you…but for all presidents.
Still, as long as we make a spectacle out of it, it seems like a good notion for us to at least try to minimize the partisan showboating, and one good way might be to mix up the crowd. Draw seats by lots so that bitter enemies, and fond friends have equal chances of being next to each other, or on the left or right, or in the front or back. At least it would give the semblance of a united government, of people working together; and who knows? If you sit all these people down next to each other and throw out some problems, maybe one or two of them will talk it over possible solutions.
And that would be something worth clapping for.
Call if you can. I’m around.
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