01/30/2006: Thought for the Day:
Why is the [opposition party] response [to the State of the Union message] doomed to fall short, no matter who gives it? Consider the inherent disadvantages. First, it's a ten-minute rebuttal to an hour-long speech. By the time the opposition leader speaks, the television audience is desperate to go to sleep or change the channel to Sports Center.
Second, the contrast in settings is a killer. The State of the Union highlights all the president's majesty, as he speaks to a packed chamber of members who throng to shake his hand and applaud even his lamest lines. The rest of the year, the Founders' checks and balances are theoretically in effectóbut on this night, the president looks down on Congress and the Supreme Court, sitting powerless in the well below. By contrast, the poor sap giving the official response is like a movie without a sound trackóno buzz, no applause, no majesty.
With that much to overcome, an opposition party might seriously consider giving the time back, or ask to bank it for use a few days, weeks, or months later. We might try to avoid the contrast altogether: for example, by inviting Jon Stewart to give a 10-minute monologue, or letting Bill Clinton use the time to ask for contributions for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Len on 01.30.06 @ 07:02 AM CST