State of the Union as reality TV entertainment

The State of the Union address on Tuesday, Feb. 4, was worthy of a reality televison show. It had something for every viewer. It had something for people to hurrah and for others to disdain.

The event started on a startling note when the President seemed to ignore House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s outstretched hand before he began speaking. Did he not notice she was attempting to shake his hand? Did he snub her? It is open to interpretation.

The non-handshake was bookended with the Speaker methodically tearing up a copy of the speech at the end of the president’s speech. Pelosi dramatically tore it in half, making a grand gesture on her feelings about the speech she just heard. Explaining her decision to tear up the speech, Pelosi said, “It was the courteous thing to do considering the alternative.”

During the address the president announced that he was bestowing the National Medal of Freedom on one of his galley guests, radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. The first lady then pinned the medal on him.

Presidents routinely invite guests to the State of the Union and recognizes them during the speech. One of the other guests this week was a military wife and mother. After praising her and other military families for their sacrifices, the president said he had a surprise for her, then announced that her husband was back from deployment in Afghanistan. It was moment worthy of The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

The evening was also punctuated with the walk out of four Democratic representatives; each had their own reasons for leaving. 

Republican members of Congress applauded many times during the address, especially when the president touted the state of the economy. They gave standing ovations when he touted the low unemployment rate among the demographic groups that historically have high rates. 

The State of the Union address is a political statement. The formal basis for the address is from Article II of the Constitution, which says the president, from time to time shall give to the Congress information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient. A president has a lot of latitude on how they do that. 

We shouldn’t be surprised by a State of the Union address that reflects the president’s reality TV background. Reality TV is entertainment and that is what the nation got Tuesday night.

Donald Trump is the president. People may support or oppose his policies and political style, but respect for the office should always be paramount for the people and members of Congress.  —LAZ