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State of the Muppets

Published March 13. 2010 09:00AM

I recently watched the televised broadcast of the State of the Union address.

It reminded me of The Muppet Show, where those two old men sit in the balcony and offer comments to each other throughout the production.

It was hard to focus my attention on what President Obama was saying because in the background were the faces of VP Joseph Biden and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. I realize they're supposed to sit near the podium, but they should have been positioned off to the side. It shouldn't be necessary for them to be on camera the entire time. Their facial expressions and comments to each other were a constant distraction.

I guess I'm old fashioned, but I believe the State of the Union address should have dignity. This time, dignity was lacking. Maybe I'm getting older and more cynical, but the atmosphere inside the hall was like a circus or pep rally.

There was either too much emotion or none at all.

The portions that were supposed to look dignified seemed fake and pretentious. There was little sense of respect. For instance, it's apparent that government leaders are free to shout out whenever they disagree with Obama. Plus, they can freely leave their seats to talk to someone across the aisle even as the president is speaking.

The Democrats, of course, stood and cheered at almost every comment Obama made.

The Republicans only cheered when a comment was non partisan or maybe perceived as All-American. To be honest, the Republicans seemed to stand and cheer only when it would have looked bad if they hadn't.

The Supreme Court justices were on hand but showed no emotion. They wore their robes as if they were on duty judging the chief executive (maybe they were). There's probably some written protocol or precedent that requires them to wear their robes at this function. But it seemed silly. They might as well have gone the whole nine yards and wore a powder puff wig while holding a piece of papyrus. I noticed that they didn't applaud anything Obama said. Actually, they didn't move at all. For a time I thought they were mannequins or props brought in from Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum.

Of course, they were matched by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Those guys were stone-faced. They resembled Beeker of the Muppets. In a way it bothered me to see the leaders of the armed forces show no feeling during this time of conflict when so many young American lives are at stake. I had mixed feelings about their apparent indifference, especially when Obama ordered them to do away with the discriminatory 'don't ask, don't tell' policy.

I always thought the president was the chief commanding officer. If that's so, then these guys were actually listening to their boss, yet showed no sign of supporting him. But who knows, maybe they sent Obama a Hallmark card and a fruit basket following the speech. Or maybe they all shared in a Muppet after-party.

One thing for sure, there was more role playing during the State of the Union address than during the Academy awards. I concluded that the room was full of characters and egos, but few human beings. Bottom line: It's not good when a State of the Union address looks like The Muppet Show.

Despite these shortcomings, I learned much from the talk. I learned that Obama has admitted some mistakes and wants to move forward, especially with national health care. I learned that Washington, D.C., is broken. And I learned that the two-party system is gridlocked and self-defeating.

What's really needed is an atmosphere of cooperation, a sensible approach to government, and a very strong leader who keeps his word and who commands respect.

Maybe the Tea Party is the answer ... and a no-nonsense candidate like Miss Piggy.

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