We'll admit up front we're no fans of what the State of the Union speech has become, but Tuesday night's spectacle was the oddest in memory.
On one hand, President Donald Trump, who had been impeached by the House in December, clearly boasted about the financial shape of the nation. Good news is in abundance, and he recited every statistic that showed it.
And since it is an election year, he couldn't help compare those statistics with those of the previous eight years. His opponents have done everything they could to stand in his way the past three years, and he aimed to rub their nose in the employment, trade and jobs numbers.
Meanwhile, since people are beginning to think about their choices in the fall, Trump also ticked off a laundry list of issues with which he's been concerned: abortion, a strong military, education, family leave, etc.
The nearly 80-minute speech also included references to guests in the audience, a tradition President Ronald Reagan started innocently in 1982. Now presidents of both parties haul out individuals who have back stories designed to elicit tears, patriotism or sympathy. Last night's topped them all with war widows, pre-term children, 100-year-old veterans, the opposition leader of Venezuela and cancer-ravaged radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who was presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom on the spot by first lady Melania Trump.
And as if to tweak the Democrats' noses a day before the Senate was expected to find him not guilty in his impeachment trial, Trump didn't mention the recent unpleasantness. Just when he had the stage to deliver several snarky, speechwriter-crafted lines about what he thought of the process, he kept silent, preventing Democrats from spewing on that topic.
On the other hand, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and her fellow travelers played perfectly into the presidents' hands. On a day in which Trump received his highest ratings in a Gallup poll, on a day where their party had been embarrassed in its botched first-in-the-nation vote in Iowa, on a day before their rushed impeachment proceedings were to fail, they showed the nation their true colors.
They sat on their hands as the president recited good news about the country. They and their partisans tried to interrupt his speech with their chants. And Pelosi — after spending most of the speech paying no attention or shaking her head — tore up her copy of the speech as the president finished speaking.
Once there was something magisterial and pride-inducing about the president — Republican or Democrat — being introduced in the House chamber and presenting an annual report to the nation. Now the show is a practice of pettiness and partisanship. Between 1801 and 1913, no president delivered the speech to Congress. It was delivered there and read by a clerk. Maybe we should go back to that.