A sad note about our State of Dis-Union 

State of the Union addresses are primarily theatrical productions and not deliberative policymaking summits. The president speaks, often in soaring platitudes and always while reciting a litany of luminous promises and goals. Members of Congress applaud or cheer, while justices of the Supreme Court, Cabinet officials and Joint Chiefs of Staff leaders clap respectfully. Everybody knows the occasion is mainly ceremonial and celebratory, a peculiar but defining rite of the American Republic.

But there were moments during President Bush’s Tuesday evening address to the nation in which it appeared more than a few members of the Democratic majority in Congress preferred to put the opportunity to score narrow partisan points above ceremony, above respect for the office of the president and above even the simple expression of hope for American success overseas, however that might be defined. This was especially evident when many Democrats remained seated and silent after Bush offered the following appeal:

"This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we’re in. Every one of us wishes this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned and our own security at risk. Ladies and gentlemen, on this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. Let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory."

Surely such a candid expression of a communal desire for American success deserves at the very least polite applause. To do otherwise is to tell the watching world that a significant segment of American leadership wants to abandon this nation’s declared aims in Iraq, including most especially the establishment of a stable democracy there and an ally in the war against terrorism. To be sure, there were Republicans who showed disrespect during President Clinton’s several State of the Union addresses, so neither party has had a monopoly on such displays of selfish partisanship. In a post-9/11 world, however, the need for unity is especially critical.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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