Resign yourselves. It’s time for POTUS to give the SOTU address.
I know. I know. It seems as though it just happened yesterday. But it has been a year.
This is the constitutionally mandated occasion when the president assesses the condition of the nation for us.
It is sort of like the Oscars: You feel guilty because you don’t really care (you haven’t watched most, if any, of the movies); you know it is a big deal (but it is so long); you know exactly what the formula is; you feel as though you must watch because something might happen. (Once, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito actually mouthed “not true” when President Barack Obama criticized the court’s controversial campaign finance decision that opened the door to tons more money in political campaigns. You just don’t want to miss that kind of titillation.)
Obama will be making his last official SOTU speech Tuesday and you just know he is going to proclaim, “My fellow Americans. The state of the union is strong.” What else can he say? “Things are not great; Donald Trump is a menace; Hillary Clinton will probably hang my portrait in the basement; I have no idea how I am going to get through the next 12 months; I have decided to spend the rest of my presidency in Hawaii.” No way.
The real news, so far, is that South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was picked to rebut the president. The rebuttal (aka the GOP kick-in-the-shins response to the president) is a relatively new idea, born of cable TV and the idea that it is un-American to listen to the president of the United States without hearing his political opponents deride him for half an hour.
Bobby Jindal, Louisiana’s governor, gave the rebuttal in 2009 but was widely panned for a sing-song style and sophomoric ideas. But he couldn’t let it go. Last year Jindal tweeted before Obama spoke, writing, “I'll save you 45 mins. Obama will decry Republicans, beat up on private business and argue for more ‘free stuff.’ Your welcome.”
Bad grammar. Bad idea. Jindal ran for president in 2015 but got no traction and pulled out: “Not my time.”
Marco Rubio’s rebuttal was late-night-comics’ fodder for ages after he sidled left to take a drink of water, all but disappearing from the TV screen. He is battling tooth and nail for third place in Iowa and New Hampshire, trying to tamp down ridicule from other candidates about his high-heeled boots.
So there’s a curse in responding to a SOTU. But Nikki Haley! In case you haven’t heard, she is going to be the GOP vice presidential candidate. Whoever the GOP presidential candidate is. Cable news has decreed it because, one, she’s an attractive female; and two, she impressed everyone with her handling of the aftermath of the Charleston church shootings and her decision to remove the Confederate battle flag from statehouse grounds.
Honest! A Republican did that!
We have to watch Obama’s address to see who from the Cabinet is not there. That’s in case a meteor falls on the Capitol; the administration must have someone to carry on.
We'll see Vice President Joe Biden applaud like crazy at Obama’s finely crafted oratory and Democrats pop up like robots to signal their excitement, while House Speaker Paul Ryan, the bearded one, makes disdainful grimaces and Republicans sit on their hands.
This year Obama will tout job growth, the expanding economy, shrinking deficits, bustling industry and booming energy production. Again.
He will plead, again, for effective gun control, combatting climate change, restoring the middle class, closing Guantanamo, destroying the Islamic State, bringing civility to politics, paid sick leave and maternity leave, free community college, improving health care and job training for veterans, trade pacts to sell more U.S. goods abroad, more research and development, an overhauled tax code, stronger diplomacy, a renewed commitment to justice and an end to overt racism, and fixing the broken immigration system. He will ask God to bless this great country we love.
It will be a good, if lengthy, speech. But Obama will step down from the podium as a lame duck, and the endless presidential primary games instantly will begin again.
Don’t forget the popcorn.
Ann McFeatters is a columnist for Tribune News Service. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.