In the first lady's box at the State of the Union address Tuesday evening, there was a guy who had come up with a way to diagnose pancreatic cancer much, much faster, an important scientific development in halting a particularly deadly form of cancer.
The guest, Jack Andraka, is 16.
Elsewhere is the chamber was the personal guest of Rep. Steve Stockman, a Texas Republican. The progun conservative used his prized ticket to the event to invite aging rocker Ted Nugent, who is less known for his music these days than he is for the fact that he was questioned by the Secret Service for observing last April that he would be "dead or in jail" if President Obama were re-elected.
Really, Congressman Stockman?
There was a time when personal guests at the State of the Union were spouses or even children. It was an austere and pragmatic affair, one in which the leader of the country informed the rest of the government about, well, the state of the union. Using the guest ticket to make an angry point detracts from what is left of the dignity of Washington governance.
If Mr. Stockman disagrees with the president, even if he actively dislikes him, that is certainly his right. He gets to express that opinion through his vote on the House floor. Inviting an attention-seeking agitator for no other reason than to stick it to the man is just immature and disrespectful. It's like attending a wedding, and inviting as your date someone who was spurned by one of the members of the bridal couple and whom you know is going to leap to his or her feet in protest when the officiator asks if anyone has any objection to the marriage.
There are a lot of things one can do on a Tuesday night in America's capital. If you don't like the message or the man delivering it, for heaven's sake, just don't go. And if, as a member of Congress, you decide to invite someone to send a message (instead of, say, seeing the spouse you probably rarely see since you're campaigning or possibly legislating all the time), it would be nice to ask someone who represents hope and innovation. Such as, perhaps, a teenager who made a scientific advancement in early detection of cancer. Celebrating anger is the last thing Washington needs right now.