Brad Friedman: Stop Whining and Start Leading
Jan 20, 2007 BradBlog.com
If Congress wants to be treated like a co-equal branch of government, it has to act like one, and Bush’s State of the Union address is the perfect time to start.
Sen. Jim Webb, who will deliver the Democratic response to the president’s speech.
I don’t know how long the tradition of an opposition party response to the president’s State of the Union address has been going on. But for as long as I can recall, it has been a drab, embarrassing, cringe-worthy effort by whichever party found itself unlucky enough to not be in the White House.
Over the last six years, the Bush administration has run roughshod over its coequal congressional partners, stealing extraordinary power for itself at every turn with the shortsighted blessings of Republican chums in the House and Senate as an all-but-castrated Democratic Party stood quietly by in the background for the most part.
This year, the Dems have smartly tapped freshman Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) to deliver the Democratic response to Bush’s State of the Union address. No simpering softy he, Webb has already shown he has the stones to look Bush straight in the eye and deliver as good as he gets in the face of a classic Dubya bully-boy alpha-dog snarl.
But no matter how much clout, moral authority or gigantic balls the former Reagan Navy secretary and proud father of a son serving in Iraq may have, the conventional stagecraft of the SOTU and its Democratic/Republican response simply stacks the cards insurmountably against the opposition party and—as is likely again this year—only serves to reinforce a perceived, if undeserved, imbalance between the two parties and between two of the branches of government.
Just moments after the predictable but rousing reception given to any president during a SOTU address—featuring long and loud applause break after applause break and the undeniable excitement of a speech delivered on live television to a packed and contentious house—there is no way that a one-camera opposition party response delivered in an all but empty room turned TV studio can ever hope to measure up to the pomp and circumstance of the president’s address. That fact would be true even if Superman was selected to deliver the opposition party response.