January 31 2011

Bipartisan SOTU Dating: Did It Backfire?

Charlotte Hays

I previously opined that the bipartisan seating at the SOTU was an attempt by Democrats to avoid standing (literally) for what they stand for. But the plan backfired (are we still allowed to say that?). It left a Democratic president without a Democratic cheering section. "Sputnik moment" thereby became a dud moment. I am not the only person who noticed this.

Matt Impomeni writes in the Daily Caller: 

It was intended to be a show of unity in the face of the evil of the Tucson shootings two weeks ago. More cynical commentators smelled a plot to dilute the effect of the November elections by obscuring the size of the Republican opposition in the new House. Whatever the purpose, it now seems clear that the Democrats' bipartisan sit-in was too clever by a half. The seating arrangement contributed to an uncharacteristically restrained audience for the speech, which when combined with a lackluster performance from the president, ended up killing one of President Obama's best chances to make the case for his agenda.

The Huffington Post and Associated Press noticed. A review of the speech laments, "On a night typically known for its political theater, the lawmakers sometimes seemed subdued, as if still in the shadow of the Arizona shootings...There was less of the see-saw applause typical of State of the Union speeches in years past, where Democrats stood to applaud certain lines and Republicans embraced others."

... Not counting jokes and references to specific people in attendance, such as the president's congratulatory words for House Speaker John Boehner, President Obama was interrupted for applause seventy times on Tuesday, according to the White House transcript. Last year, the White House noted more than 100 interruptions during the State of the Union. And while, according to the Washington Post, the president spoke about ten minutes less this year than last, many commentators said that this year's speech seemed to them to be too long. That's a product of the relatively dim reception that greeted the president's words. ...

As a result, the speech seemed flat, and will almost certainly go down as a mostly forgettable address. Of course, this may have been true anyway given the times the country is in and the relatively milquetoast agenda the president put forward. But in trying to score cheap political points against Republicans, Democrats may have, civilly, shot themselves in the foot.

I do hope somebody tells Mr. Impomeni that we are no longer allowed to use that expresion. 

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