I’m not going to comment on President Obama’s State of the Union address except to say that I thought it was a very fine speech. I just want to make one small observation.  Did you watch Speaker Paul Ryan during the speech? The Republican leader of the House never, ever applauded the president. He didn’t even stir himself for the most anodyne, feel-good applause lines the president could throw out. What does that tell you? Surely, Ryan knew that he would stir up a storm of protest within his own House caucus if he could be photographed apparently liking anything—anything—the president said.   Another small piece of evidence of Republican craziness: Ryan, a genuinely radical right-wing ideologue, must heed the power and fury of the fanatics within his own party who suspect him capable sometimes of something resembling moderation.

OK, that does lead me to one critical comment that I just can’t help making: I almost gagged when Obama said that he regretted that he hadn’t been able to bring the parties together, that a more gifted uniter—a Lincoln or a Roosevelt—might perhaps been able to succeed.   What a gratuitous concession to a Republican Party that has consistently made “compromise” a dirty word! Not to mention a weird interpretation of history: Lincoln was the president whose election brought on the civil war and Roosevelt was one of the most polarizing presidents of all time.  (I assume Obama meant FDR, but TR was himself hardly a champion of kumbaya.)


  1. Frank Burd January 13, 2016 at 2:24 pm

    Yeah, the references to Lincoln and FDR were strange. Nixon was a better compromiser. Did I say Nixon? Does anyone quote Nixon in the homage to past presidents? OMG, what is happening to me? How do I cope with a Republican Party that reveres Ronald Reagan? Wait, didn’t Reagan open the doors to immigrants??? Sadly, bending to pressure, FDR closed the door to so many during the period just before World War II. They either weren’t allowed in or set back… What do I know?

  2. Judy Robinson January 13, 2016 at 10:14 pm

    Yes, I noticed that Paul Ryan didn’t applaud, which I understood in the way you described.
    Another interesting and curious sidelight to me was how often Ryan and Biden turned toward each other, smiled, and whispered together during the speech. Though Ryan looked distant from the President and unmoved by his words, he appeared (at least superficially) warm and cordial toward Biden.
    I didn’t take note of at what points in the speech this happened. But it was striking that they almost looked as if they were sharing a private joke, sometimes. I’m sure there was no significant content there, but I can’t help being curious about what they were saying.

    • tonygreco January 14, 2016 at 12:11 am

      Yes, even Ryan’s facial expression seemed flat: the contrast in his demeanor toward Biden and toward the president is noteworthy.

      But I have to correct myself. I’ve learned that Ryan did applaud three times. The first was at the beginning when Obama joked about how he promised to be short. I’d forgotten about that. The other two occasions evidently occurred late in the speech when I was having technical difficulties watching. So, I have to revise my assertion from Ryan “never, ever” applauded to “hardly ever.” The basic point, I think, remains valid.

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