It was pretty good.
I listened and watched as the analysts, reporters, anchors, and Members of the House and Senate were interviewed about what they were hoping to hear, about what they were fearful, or just hoping an SOTU interview would kickstart a new or flagging career.
Chief among these is the freshman Congresswoman from New York, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who goes by her Twitter handle @AOC. Not AEIOU & Sometimes Why, as I had thought.
She has been everywhere commenting on everything. She reminded me of a young Newt Gingrich without the advanced degrees.
Not to say that Trump was nervous before he began but he committed an unpardonable sin in Trumpville: He stepped on his own applause line. When the Clerk of the House throws open the House doors and proclaims the arrival of the President it is required that the Members of the President’s political party roar and applaud like he has just scored the only touchdown in the Superbowl.
After slowly shaking hands and inching his (or her) way forward to the Well of the House he walks to the lecturn, hands copies of his speech (as prepared for delivery) to each the Vice President and the Speaker of the House and waits for the applause to finally end.
Then the Speaker is supposed to say something like: “It is my high honor and distinct privilege to introduce the President of the United States.” After which the attendees who are fans of the President in question, stand, roar, and clap like the audience at an afternoon game show.
Trump didn’t follow the script and Pelosi didn’t (a) get to, or (b) have to, say those words.
According to my $33 Timex (Indiglo included) the speech itself ran about 1:22. The Washington Examiner’s fact-checkers tell us that is second to Bill Clinton’s 2000 marathon which holds the record (not counting SOTUs delivered in Cuba) at 1:27.
Even with that, it took 16 minutes for Trump to get to the heart of the thing:
“Members of Congress: The State of our Union is strong.”
I am not one of those who think the State of the Union address should be retired. What I DO think should be retired is the ever-growing cast of heroes and victims, families and friends, people who have actually done something, and people who have had something done to them.
I speak of … the Gallery.
This all started with Lenny Skutnick. I know you know the story. Skutnick was an employee of the U.S. Budget office who, watching a plane crash into the Potomac River on takeoff, jumped into the freezing water and pulled a flight attendant to safety.
He was invited to the SOTU by the Reagans. During his address, President Reagan said:
“And, we saw the heroism of one of our young government employees, Lenny Skutnik, who, when he saw a woman lose her grip on the helicopter line, dived into the water and dragged her to safety.”
Had this occurred in January 2019, that flight attendant would have died. Skutnick wouldn’t have been driving home from work at that time because the government was shut down.
And an angel wouldn’t have gotten his wings.
Trump caused the attendees to crane their necks to look up so often, I’m betting the House Physician’s office has had to hire extra help to deliver all the Advils to Members’ offices.
I’m not at all sure why Trump spent so much time on D-Day. It got so convoluted by the time he tried to make the point that an American serviceman and a former prisoner of Dachau were sitting next to each other in the gallery even the Republicans went, “Huh?”
Other non-applause lines occurred when Trump tried to tie progress to the ever-growing list of investigations of Trump or Trump-related entities.
“The only thing that can stop [our progress] are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations. If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn’t work that way.”
That’s what happens when the speechwriter falls in love with a line and just can’t bear to have it excised.
The other hush-generator occurred after describing a huge caravan of Central Americans heading to the U.S. Trump said, “I have ordered another 3,750 troops to our Southern border to prepare for this tremendous onslaught.”
The resulting silence was so loud it registered on the seismograph at the Smithsonian Institution.
The best line in the speech wasn’t in the prepared text. It was in the section celebrating the rise of women in the workforce, which generated hooting and hollering from the Democratic women (most, if not all, of whom, were dressed in white).
Trump said, smiling:
“Don’t sit yet. You’re going to like this. And exactly one century after Congress passed the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in Congress than at any time before.”
It drew exactly the response he knew it would.
As I said at the top, it was pretty good which, on the Mullings Scale of Reaction is better than “it was fine.”
As has been the case with almost every State of the Union address in my lifetime, in spite of the breathless reporting in the runup and the anguished dissection afterward, “The world will little note, nor long remember” what was said.
Thank you, Mr. Lincoln.
On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: The text of the speech, the Wikipedia entry for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the Lenny Skutnick story (again).