The State of the Union address was exactly what we’ve come to expect. Indeed, it was so prosaic, save a for a few riling rhetorical flourishes about gun control, that immediately following the speech, Fox News responded with little more than a shrug.
There were touching moments, however: the parents of the girl who was recently shot dead in Chicago after performing
in the inaugural parade, former Senator Gabby Giffords applauding, and the grief-stricken parents of Sandy Hook victims wiping tears. There were the usual, though effective, personal stories of average Americans who’d reached extraordinary achievements. And if waiting in line for three hours to vote doesn’t sound like much of a victory, when you learn that the person who stood in that Floridian heat is 102-years old, well let’s just say that Desiline Victor’s standing ovation was much deserved.
While nearly every member of Congress appears at the Capitol, whether they want to or not, the Supreme Court Justices’ attendance has been in steady decline since 1965 — 84 percent in 1965 down to 32 percent. And at President Clinton’s final address in 2000, not a single justice attended.
As in recent years, Supreme Court Justices Thomas, Alito, and Scalia chose not to grace with their presences. The seventy-six-year-old Scalia, who referred to the annual event as “a rather silly affair,” hasn’t even attended the joint session of Congress since 1997. The New York Times reported that the normally laconic Thomas could barely conceal his contempt for “the catcalls, the whooping and hollering and under-the-breath comments.” And Alito simply was not about to “sit there like the proverbial potted plant most of the time.” It should be noted; however, that in 2010 Alito was actually a pantomiming plant when he shook his head and mouthed “not true” while President Obama was delivering his speech.
Texas Representative Steve Stockman’s once-famous musical guest received zero camera face time — even on Fox News. The most-and-least-anticipated gallery-scowler, Ted Nugent’s mere presence rankled the left and embarrassed those on the right with high school diplomas and three good teeth left. According to Slate, the gun lover stood when the president entered, then squirmed and scrunched his face throughout the rest of the evening. “My favorite part was when I couldn’t hear clearly,” the sixty-four-year-old told reporters. “Then I didn’t get angry.”
First lady Michelle Obama’s stylish attire is always chatter for garmentos, and is normally spoken of in flattering tones. Jason Wu, having designed both of Mrs. Obama’s inaugural ball dresses in ’09 and ’13 seemed as if he’d pieced together two bridesmaids’ dresses for the occasion. Neither of which were complementary to one another — nor was the sartorial choice complimentarily received.
The only outburst was brief, unintelligible, and was drown out by applause following the Obama’s rousing plea for sensible gun control. The Democrats stood when we expected them to and the Republicans frowned on cue. And when vice presidential-hopeless Paul Ryan heard his former running mate’s name mentioned he cocked his head and smirked. Speaker Boehner blew his nose and remained uncustomarily dry-eyed while Vice President Biden fidgeted and appeared bothered by his recent scratched cornea.
But the takeaway from the night? When Senator Marco Rubio snaked-eyed from side to side, and snatched a sip of water, you knew this was the moment. It wasn’t quite a chair scenario in its curiousness, rather it was sheer what-the-hell’s-he-doing comedy.In seconds Twitter was aflutter and Facebook ‘feeds filled up instantly with memes mocking new G.O.P.’s darling.
It was clear that the senator was nervous, that his heart was racing, and it sppeared at one point that he might hyperventilate. While the senator’s pre-rehearsed speech was in no way an actual rebuttal of the State of the Union speech, he was still more impressive than the G.O.P.’s 2009 entry, Bobby Jindal, whose pantywaisted speech drew yawns and opened veins. Then, something happened: cotton mouth set in. And Rubio just seconds prior to the water-sneak, made an odd 1970s porn-y move by wiping his open mouth. Then as he ducked out of the center of the screen reaching for his water bottle, Meanwhile, writers at Saturday Night Live were banging on their laptops with such alacrity you could hear their keys popping off.
And the hits just kept on comin’. Later Senator Rand Paul delivered the Tea Party response. He began:
“I speak to you tonight from Washington, D.C. The state of our economy is tenuous, but our people remain the greatest example of freedom and prosperity the world has ever known.”
The Miami Herald reports that the Kentuckian continued by scolding “Democrats and Republicans alike.” And while last night’s Tea Party performance was considered superior to Representative Michele Bachmann’s odd turn in 2010, one can’t help but wonder: Is that only because no one actually saw it?