It’s become fashionable to dismiss the State of the Union as an empty ritual that could just as well be delivered by email.
And for that you can blame Woodrow Wilson, who addressed Congress for his 1913 speech – the first time that had been done since John Adams in 1800. Woody paved the way for today’s swollen, hour-plus television extravaganzas with mandatory media buildup.
But the main reason most of these speeches are dull and predictable is their overly scripted nature.
Not only do White House speechwriters labor over applause lines, but every department and agency lobbies to have its pet issues included. That’s why the end of such speeches often have several unrelated one-liners crammed in at the last minute.
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But as highly choreographed as these events are – right down to the tidbits leaked beforehand – sometimes they go off script.
And that’s what happened when some Republicans started heckling and yelling at President Biden on Tuesday night, and he responded by taking them on.
Finally, some real moments that had not been endlessly rehearsed. It was almost like having a taste of Question Time in the British parliament, where lawmakers are practically rewarded for hectoring the prime minister.
Now I’m not a fan of heckling at the State of the Union, and more important, neither is Kevin McCarthy. His office had put out word that he wanted his caucus to behave, and several times he could be seen trying to shush loudmouth members.
I just think, no matter how strongly you feel, let the president finish his speech out of respect for the office. Then you can spend the next 23 hours bashing him.
Marjorie Taylor Greene was one of the lead hecklers, and in doing so undercut the reputation she had been building for becoming a more serious lawmaker who helped McCarthy win the speakership on the 15th ballot.
But there was also something of a ploy in the way Biden took on the issue of Medicare and Social Security.
He played a game that both parties have long indulged in – attacking an unpopular position that someone on the other side, perhaps with a handful of allies, has advanced. It’s the policy equivalent of making MTG or AOC the face of the opposition.
In this case it was Sen. Rick Scott, who has proposed sunsetting the two giant entitlement programs every five years. Scott is no mere backbencher; he challenged Mitch McConnell for the leadership and got 10 votes.
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But McCarthy had already publicly agreed to take Medicare and Social Security off the table for now as the two parties battle over a debt-ceiling agreement. And he emphasized that to Biden during their White House meeting.
So the president knew full well he was swinging at a straw man.
The booing began when Biden said “some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset. I’m not saying it’s a majority–.”
There were shouts of “No!” and “Liar!”
Biden, clearly enjoying himself, invited skeptics to come to his office to see a copy of the proposal.
But now that high-decibel Republicans were insisting that wasn’t the party’s position, the president switched to sarcasm.
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“So folks, as we all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the – off the books now, right? They’re not to be touched?”
As Democrats applauded, Biden said: “All right. All right. We got unanimity!”
No fair-minded observer thinks the Republicans won that exchange. Some believe Biden was deliberately baiting them into shouting at him.
Whatever the case, the crucial thing is that it was unscripted. And an 80-year-old president facing questions about his age looked nimble in responding.
Some, like Politico’s Jack Shafer, are in the make-it-an-email camp: “No need to preempt regular broadcasts. No need to keep newscasters like Jake Tapper and Lester Holt and Norah O’Donnell up past their bedtimes.”
But then we would have missed the best part of the show.
Source – https://www.foxnews.com/shows/media-buzz/biden-gop-hecklers-matters-real-unscripted
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