Friday, January 28, 2011

815 Fair and Balanced

815 Fair and Balanced

That’s Fox News’ Orwellian motto, but that’s not what this is about, mostly. This is about the State of the Union Address and two speeches that came after it.

The President is required to report to Congress once a year. He can do that any way he wishes. Smoke signals, a coffee klatch, a memo, an e-mail. Most presidents chose the speech. It’s called “The State of the Union Address.” It’s delivered to a joint session (not a joint meeting,) of Congress. Others attend as well: Friends, family, Supreme Court Justices if they’re not in a snit, that sort.

The speech is supposed to tell Congress (and the rest of the American People) what the President thinks is the condition of the country and to outline his legislative program. It’s basically a campaign speech.

In recent decades, the television networks have given a member of the opposition party a chance to respond. So when the President is a Democrat, as now, a Republican gets to rebut. But the rebuttal has to be prepared before the address is given, so it’s become another campaign speech.

Even so, the President is speaking as President, fulfilling a constitutional obligation. The opponent is speaking as politician.

This year, we had the pleasure of two opposing speeches, one from the hapless Paul Ryan (Republican Party-WI.) Boilerplate sloganeering delivered in a Charlie-Rose-Like semi trance. The other from Michele Bachman (Tea Party Party-MN.)

Anyone can comment on the content of a Presidential address. And almost everyone does (so you won’t find that here even though the see-saw his tipped to the right.) And Bachman certainly has the same right to speak out as everyone else. But TWO rebuttals? To a constitutionally-mandated Presidential address?

The first question is “why is any counter-speech necessary?” Broadcasting’s “fairness doctrine” with its implied suggestion of “rebuttal” has long been dead and the right wing is leading the fight to keep it that way.

The second question is “why did party leaders not find a way to stop a faction of its members from speaking until the next day or the day after... what were they afraid of?”

The third question is “why did anyone carry the Bachman speech in the first place?”

The fourth question is “who are you kidding, Michele,” when you say you were merely speaking to a meeting of like minded individuals?

When commentator Chris Matthews later called her a “balloon head,” he was insulting balloons.

Shrapnel:

--Speaking of Rupert Murdoch’s Foxes of Television, a group of rabbis has taken a big ad blasting the Fox News Channel in general and Glenn Beck in particular. And what paper did they use for the ad? Why Rupert Murdoch’s Wall St. Journal.

--Egypt is a finger in the dyke. If they don’t get their act together, previous trouble in the Middle East is going to look like a walk in the park, even though the protests are about internal issues and not international relations. Uncle Hosni needs to get his head out of the sand and do some serious reforming.

I’m Wes Richards. My opinions are my own but you’re welcome to them. ®
Comments to wesrichards@gmail.com
© WJR 2011

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