During his 1982 State of the Union address, Ronald Reagan did something unusual. In keeping with his preference for locating heroism in ordinary Americans, he told the story of one Lenny Skutnik, an employee of the Congressional Budget Office who two weeks earlier leaped into the Potomac River to save a drowning woman in the wake of a plane crash. As Reagan described the event, the cameras swiveled to the gallery, where Skutnik was seated next to the First Lady. People loved it so much that it became a tradition, and every subsequent State of the Union address has featured a presidential shout-out to a regular American in the audience who has done something extraordinary.
But what if you're the opposition party? Telling your own story during the SOTU isn't easy, with all eyes on the president. Sure, you can shout "You lie!" as the president talks, but that's been done. You can bring an American hero with you to the speech, but unless he or she is recognizable, no one will even realize it. So Texas Republican congressman Steve Stockman found a solution: What if you invite as your guest a has-been musician among whose claims to fame is the time he stood on stage holding up two rifles and said, "Obama, he's a piece of shit, I told him to suck on my machine gun!" then further elaborated, "Hey Hillary, you might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless bitch!"
Yes, we speak of Ted Nugent, singer of 1977's "Cat Scratch Fever," and, um, possibly some other songs too. He'll be Stockman's guest tomorrow night at the SOTU, and you can bet the cameras will find him. Just the kind of guy you want to bring to this honored ritual of American democracy, in which members of Congress, the cabinet, and the Supreme Court come together to hear the president's report on the nation's health and his plans for the coming year. And people say Republicans aren't serious about governing.
So They Say
"And I remember as I watched him breathe out the last part of air, I thought: Is this the best thing I've ever done, or the worst thing I've ever done? This is real and that's him. Holy shit. Everybody wanted him dead, but nobody wanted to say, Hey, you're going to kill this guy. It was just sort of understood that's what we wanted to do."
—"The Shooter," recounting the moment Osama bin Laden was killed in an Esquire profile
Daily Meme: Bye Bye Benedict
- So, the pope, or as Max Read calls him, "Ex-Benedict," is resigning.
- It's kind of a big deal, since the last time it happened, Columbus hadn't even stumbled upon America yet.
- Benedict XVI is 85, and cites worsening health as the reason for stepping down.
- He's also one year older than John Paul II was when he died. Despite his obvious frailty, people were still shocked.
- One churchgoer in Munich thought it might be a prank for German's "Pink Monday" festival.
- Marktl am Inn, the pope's birthplace and purveyor of "pope beer" and "Vatican bread," is sad to see their claim to fame abdicate. They still have their boring memories though: "As he came past me, he was looking to the left but he suddenly turned to the right and he caught my eye. There was a split second when he was looking right at me."
- But enough dwelling on the past—who's next? One Spectator writer thinks Cardinal Dolan is a shoo-in, Irish gamblers think the cardinal from Ghana is a safe bet, but really there are a bunch of potential picks, so who knows what will happen.
- Michael Brendan Doherty has a great primer on what the election of each likely candidate would mean for the future of the Church.
- Hence the politicking begins! There's even political science to comb through about the pope selection process.
- At least the U.S. Senate isn't involved. Matt Yglesias jokes, "Lindsey Graham won’t confirm new Pope until he gets some answers about the Synods of Carthage."
- One good thing that comes of the surprise announcement: hopefully more opportunities for blog posts about John Boehner's super-Catholic desk.
What We're Writing
- Jamelle Bouie has a post on Marco Rubio and the GOP's hopes for a boost in Hispanic support—and why a couple of congressmen who are good on immigration won't exactly have Latinos stampeding into the Republican tent.
- Austerity has been the reigning theology in Europe for three years now, but Yannis Palaiologos thinks that the downsides (neo-Nazis, poverty, unemployment, and the irascible Silvio Berlusconi) might not be worth the slightly improved "economic fundamentals."
What We're Reading
- Nate Cohn wonders when the GOP will learn that "I'll start a super PAC!" is not the solution to any problem.
- Infrastructure looks to be a big part of tomorrow's State of the Union and, bilingual rebuttals aside, the time might just be right to start repaving the road to prosperity.
- It's a little lower-profile than the dreaded sequester, but Obama's decision on the Keystone Pipeline is coming up, and in the long run, it's probably more important.
- New York Magazine looks at the recurring themes in the Jon Favreau playbook.
- Teju Cole asks, why doesn't the "reader-in-chief" have more empathy when it comes to foreign policy?
- Fox CEO Roger Ailes is looking to capture Latino viewership. If immigrants were half as dumb as his network has always said they are, then maybe.
- In case you were unaware, the United States has internet that is both much slower and much more expensive than most of the developed world, and we provide it to fewer people. Why? Corporate trusts and congressional lobbying, why else.
- Republicans are out in force against the CIA, Defense, and State nominees Brennan, Hagel, and Kerry, with Lindsey Graham proposing a filibuster, John McCain still railing about Benghazi, and Dick Cheney calling them "second rate." So, really, nothing new to report.
Poll of the Day
Gallup has found that fewer young people are uninsured today than they have been in years, with the decline dating from the 2010 provision of the Affordable Care Act that allowed children to remain on their parents' insurance until the age of 26. Overall, uninsured numbers are at a two-year low, although a stronger economic recovery will probably be necessary before the tally really drops. That, or we wait until 2014, when most of the rest of the law comes into effect.
Prospect intern Jon Coumes contributed to today's Ringside Seat.