Bipartisanship at Obama's State of the Union Only Symbolic

The two senators will sit together at Obama's State of the Union, but they’ll each be rooting for their own team.

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After the massacre in Tucson, there has been a hint of reconciliation in the air. A different tone taken by the talking heads on radio and television and even a different tone in Congress today as debate opened on repealing healthcare reform.

My mother always said “it’s not what you say, but the way you say it.” Perhaps Congress has been calling my mother for advice on how to play nice. Today we saw the debate on the floor over policies and disagreement in legislation, without mudslinging, without personal attacks and thank God without any gun metaphors. Imagine that. Our politicians acting like adults in a respectful and professional manner.

And next week, at the State of the Union, in a symbolic gesture, and breaking with tradition, Sens. Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, and Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican, will sit together.

I’ve been to the State of the Union address once. It was President George W. Bush’s seventh year in office. I was invited by a Democratic Senator, and although a liberal Democrat, I was honored to be a part of it. Upon entering the chamber there is excitement. Especially when they’re playing his song, “Hail to the Chief” and the president enters.

[See photos of the Obamas behind the scenes.]

(Sidebar-trivia @ Hail to the Chief--did you know that song was requested to be played at all presidential entrances in 1845 by Sarah Polk, wife of President James Polk? She actually insisted this because President Polk was a short man of unimpressive stature and his presence went unnoticed in a crowd. She felt it was beneath his dignity and felt he should be announced by the playing of this song. And you thought Hilary was a strong first lady!)

Back to my State of the Union experience. Honestly, although I felt that I was a part of history, I have to admit it reminded me of a cross between a Catholic Mass and a high school football rally!

OK, I know, explain that one, you’re saying. OK. Catholic Mass: Sit, stand, sit, stand, sit, stand, and do it again. Football rally? That’s easy. Jump to your feet and shout to support your team! Er, political party! It’s quite a show. And nowadays, a shame. More people would rather watch American Idol or The Biggest Loser than hear about the State of the Union. Some argue that with our info super highway, we all know the State of the Union before we hear it from the president’s lips! And of course there usually aren’t any surprises. We know the content of the speech before it’s presented and discuss it on talk radio the night before! (Thank you!) Of course more people would watch if there were the unexpected…..My fellow Americans, the State of the Nation is awful, we’re going to hell in a handbag, I’ve done the best I can and basically, we’re screwed.

[See a roundup of political cartoons on Democrats and on Republicans.]

But back to our Kumbaya moment between Sens. Schumer and Coburn. … Call me cynical, call me pessimistic, OK? Pollyanna I am not. But this new “tone” in Congress and this symbolic gesture of bipartisanship will last for a week or two and then the divisiveness will ensue once again. I’m sure of it. We live for it, we thrive on it. Especially our politicians on the Hill. And for those that think I’m being too negative- just watch as Sens. Schumer and Coburn sit together…for you won’t see them standing together as they’ll still each be rooting for their own team.

  • Follow the money in Congress.
  • Check out a roundup of political cartoons on healthcare.
  • Read more about healthcare reform.