I can’t turn ‘The State of the Union’ off once it’s on. Never have been able to. It’s mesmeric.
But I’ve been thinking about how the speech must have changed since the introduction of TV cameras into the chamber. All those senators and congressmen who have to communicate their approval and disapproval in a quick grab of TV: I feel sorry for them.
So I’ve decided this year to give you ‘A Cynic's Guide to the TV version of the State of the Union.’
This post is not a Cynic’s Guide to the actual speech. I think that it would be a difficult speech to give, and so I do not want to speak about it with hubris. Besides, you can find the Bush cynics on a million Blogs. This post is not a Cynic’s Guide to politics, nor is this a Cynic’s Guide to government per se. I believe that God institutes government, and they deserve respect and/or challenge, but not cynicism. Besides, I’ve railed against cynicism for years. Cynicism holds the promise of intelligent fun, but only delivers cheap bitterness.
However, I am happy to be cynical about TV.
Below is a Cynic's Guiide to the TV version of the State of the Union:
1. For the viewing public, arrange for the White-Woman-Hillary-Clinton to sit directly behind rival Democrat African-American-Barak-Obama. And then have Ted Kennedy sit directly next to Obama. It’s more entertaining than the Super-bowl.
2. Having TV in the chambers means that the only expression of support or disgust by the senators and congressmen is clapping. Clapping? Clapping, for the record, is a limited form of communication.
3. However, there are ways to communicate on TV while clapping: For example – hold a piece of paper in your hands as you slowly clap. You can look cool and indifferent to your supporters, but not totally anti-Bush for the swing voters.
4. Another example of communicating from the floor: when there is a standing ovation, stand 10 seconds later than the Republicans. Then we know where you really stand on the issue.
5. If the camera faces you, and you don’t like President Bush: Look down. Just look down. Or keep your finger to your forehead, and look down, like Ted Kennedy.
6. If you’re Nancy Pelosi, smile as much as you can. Look Bi-Partisan. And choose your protests carefully. It’s your debut as a clapper and a non-clapper. This is your chance to tell us what you really think.
7. The only winners in an era of TV are the Justices of the Supreme Court. They court no votes, and are clearly told to look like they have no body, parts or passions (to quote the 39 Articles).
8. If you the President (whether you are Rep or Dem), mention your most controversial issues as your penultimate topic (not too early, and definitely not last). And then finish with any of the following words, speaking with palpable hope: Darfur, poverty, disease, HIV, education, affordable, hero, or Freedom.
Have I missed anything?