Reviews | Can the State of the Union compete with the “white lotus”?

A question that always carries with it a shiver of unease during major presidential addresses: on a scale of 1 to Lauren Boebert, how disrespectful will members of the opposing party behave? Normally, the absent party merely disagrees by refraining from applauding – or by grumbling vaguely. But you never know when someone will become great, like when Rep. Joe Wilson, a Republican from South Carolina, shouted “You’re lying!” to President Barack Obama during a September 2009 speech to a joint session of Congress. Or last year, when Ms. Boebert, the pride of Colorado, interrupted a dark party of Mr. Biden’s SOTU to shout something about him putting servicemen in caskets. (Stay classy, ​​Lauren!)

Of course, when it comes to throwing low-key SOTU shade, it would be hard to top Nancy Pelosi’s condescending operatic stunt at President Donald Trump in 2019, let alone her tearing up of a copy of his speech in 2020. (The former speaker really, Really doesn’t like “what’s his name”, as she likes to call it.)

This time, anything seems possible. Tuesday will be Mr. Biden’s first appearance before the Republican-controlled House, and with the MAGA wingnuts dominating the conference. Will the Chaos Monkeys perform at their best, or will the compulsion to act prove overwhelming? Notably, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene recently embarked on a brand overhaul, cutting back on the madness and huddling with leadership in an effort to market herself as an intraconference bridge builder. This new jab of near-respectability might make her play nicer than usual, if only to avoid embarrassing her new best friend, Mr. McCarthy. Alternatively, Mr. Biden might be lucky to get through Tuesday night without being splashed with rotten produce – at least metaphorically.

As for the part of the speech on the president’s political wish list, there’s no point in sweating the details, especially this year. House Republicans have made clear they plan to spend their time in office investigating everything from Mr. Biden’s foreign policy decisions to his school report cards. So even pressing legislative issues with bipartisan appeal are likely to languish.

Even so, the president must outline his vision. He is expected to clarify his re-election intentions very soon, and SOTU is seen by many as a first step towards a second term. Mr. Biden will likely explain to people some of his proudest accomplishments so far, on issues ranging from infrastructure to climate change to gun safety. This is also the time for him to offer his thoughts on a host of burning issues such as inflation, the debt ceiling, gun violence, the war in Ukraine and police reform. (Guests at the event include the parents of Tire Nichols, the Memphis man whose death after a brutal beating by police horrified the nation.)


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