I can’t remember the last time I missed a State of the Union address. Even if it was a President I often disagreed with on policy, I still watched. Even if I disagreed, at least I would have some idea where the President was coming from.
Still I debated long and hard about watching President Obama this week, not because I didn’t want to hear what he had to sa; rather I was concerned about possible rude responses like the time a house member shouted out “liar.”
But I caved in, turned away from my favorite hockey team’s game, and watched. And lo and behold, there was no overt rudeness. My guess is that we owe the decent atmosphere to John Boehner. While we are not on the same political page, I have often admired Boehner’s savvy-ness. He knows full well that outrageous behavior by one of his members – as opposed to reasonable disagreement – would become the headline.
However, this appears to be the exception, not the rule, these days.
It took less than 24 hours for the now-usual discourse to rear up again. The display at the Phoenix airport by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to President Obama was beneath contempt. I don’t care what burr was under her saddle; an elected official should not do that to the President of the United States. Brewer has plenty of avenues to express her disagreement – that is her right – but what she did in public was pure grandstanding.
When George Bush flew into South Bend, three times as I recall, did we see anything like that here? I covered those events and I did not see it. When Bush spoke at Notre Dame’s commencement, a few students turned their backs and a few others seemed to have some statement painted on their caps, but that was it.
Of course it is not just politicians who seem to be caught up in rudeness as way of expressing themselves. Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas refused to join his teammates at the White House this week when the President honored the reigning Stanley Cup champions. That too is his business. Still, he couldn’t resist writing a political diatribe on his blog.
Afterwards, the Governor of Massachusetts said this, “It just feels like we are losing basic courtesy and grace in this country.” Governor Deval Patrick went on to say, “…while I often disagreed with George Bush, I always referred to him as ‘Mr. President,’ and I stood to acknowledge him when he walked into the room. There are rules to live by.”
Sadly there are a lot of people in this country, a growing number, that seem to think those basic rules of decency were meant to be broken.