STATE OF THE UNION REBUTTAL….Bruce Reed discusses at greater length than I have why the rebuttal to the State of the Union address is a preordained disaster:
Why is the response doomed to fall short, no matter who gives it? Consider the inherent disadvantages. First, it’s a ten-minute rebuttal to an hour-long speech. By the time the opposition leader speaks, the television audience is desperate to go to sleep or change the channel to Sports Center.
Second, the contrast in settings is a killer. The State of the Union highlights all the president’s majesty, as he speaks to a packed chamber of members who throng to shake his hand and applaud even his lamest lines. The rest of the year, the Founders’ checks and balances are theoretically in effect ? but on this night, the president looks down on Congress and the Supreme Court, sitting powerless in the well below. By contrast, the poor sap giving the official response is like a movie without a sound track ? no buzz, no applause, no majesty.
I agree completely, which is why I also agree that the blogosphere should give Tim Kaine a break. Being picked to give the rebuttal is more a hazing ritual than an honor.
Anyway, I’ll repeat my suggestion to the Democrats from a couple of years ago: either insist that the rebuttal speaker be allowed to speak in front of an audience or else just pack it in. The current format is so bad that I’m convinced it does the opposition party more harm than good.