President Barack Obama had the customary complement of "heroes in the gallery" for his State of the Union address Tuesday night to draw attention to his goals, values and accomplishments. Not to be outdone, members of Congress brought in guests to score their own political points, all for the same reason: The State of the Union has become a showcase for showmanship.
The most impressive guest of the evening was Cory Remsburg of Phoenix, Ariz., an Army Ranger injured by a roadside bomb in Kandahar, Afghanistan. The decorated veteran, who wore his formal military uniform, sat with first lady Michelle Obama and received a sustained ovation when the president told his story and introduced him.
Obama's other guests, as reported by CBS News, included:
• Carlos Arredondo and Jeff Bauman, survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing.
• Mary Barra of Detroit, the new CEO of General Motors and the first woman to head the company.
• Jason Collins of Los Angeles, a former National Basketball Association player who has announced that he is gay.
• Amanda Shelley of Gilbert, Ariz., a physician's assistant who had a preexisting condition that prevented her from getting health insurance until Obama's Affordable Care Act took effect and she got coverage this year.
Members of Congress made different statements with their invitees. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, hosted several people who were having trouble with Obama's health care law, a gambit designed to underscore the flaws in Obamacare, which Boehner opposes. Several Democratic legislators had unemployed people as guests, to dramatize the need for extending unemployment benefits.
Fox News commentator Sean Hannity, who often criticizes Obama, was a guest of Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas.
Perhaps the most unorthodox guest at the joint session of Congress was Willie Robertson, one of the hirsute stars of the "Duck Dynasty" reality television show. He was invited by Rep. Vance McAllister, R-La. Willie Robertson is the son of Phil Robertson, whose critical comments about homosexuality resulted in his brief suspension from the show by the A&E network recently.
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Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog, "Ken Walsh's Washington," for usnews.com, and "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at email@example.com and followed on Facebook and Twitter.