When discussing Wednesday night's upcoming State of the Union address, Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy told CNN "We're members of Congress. We have a code of ethics of how we should portray ourselves, that's exactly what we'll do." What he should have added was Groucho Marx's axiom, "Those are my principles, and if you don't like them... well, I have others." Maybe he just forgot to tell his caucus about his "code of ethics"?
Remember those innocent days of the Obama years (around 2009) when Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) broke the perfect harmony that was the US Congress (?!?) and caused a massive uproar when he yelled “you lie!” at the President during a joint session of Congress? (He raised more than $1 million in campaign contributions after his little outburst.) Wednesday night, Biden's State of the Union sounded like a bad day in the British House of Commons. The backbenchers and Q-anonsters were shouting like howler monkeys throughout the speech. Even as recently as March of '22, it was still considered shocking when Lauren "Babbling" Boebert yelled out a reference accusing Biden of putting American troops in coffins after the chaotic Afghanistan withdrawal. She was boo'ed from both sides of the aisle (but also sent out a fundraising letter afterward.)
After a couple of MTG's outbursts, leader McCarthy quietly shushed her, and then closed his eyes for a moment in resignation. Well, not resignation... yet.
It wasn't too long ago when the GOP was apoplectic when Nancy Pelosi ripped up her copy of a Trump SOTU speech from the podium at the end of his address (he had earlier refused to shake her hand.) It was if she had defaced scripture... The decorum! Republicans went so far as to ask the Attorney General to prosecute her, "Pelosi committed a criminal act by destroying an official copy of the State of the Union speech delivered to her" by Trump."
So if the new Speaker expected decorum from his own caucus, he must be... disappointed. If you expect him to scold his House for their booing and their shouting and heckling, don't hold your breath. He needs every vote he can get, and it won't take but one vote to drive him from his speakership.
But it's not like anyone in the Senate has beaten another senator into unconsciousness... lately. At least since 1856 when Charles Sumner took some serious blows to the head from another senator's cane on the chamber floor for his anti-slavery views. He would recover, but let's not forget that the animosity of that period would culminate in a civil war just a few short years later. Some days, especially after a contentious SOTU like this one, more violence seems inevitable.
Or maybe Congress COULD just imitate the Parliament of our mother country. More yelling, more interruptions, and lots of name-calling. But with some style! With wit! And always with great accents! Notably, the distance between the two front benches in the British House of Commons is said to be slightly more than two sword lengths, for the exact reason that you think... to deter sword fights! They prefer to thrust and parry with their rapier wit. And they often hurl their dissatisfaction directly at their Prime Minister, who, like Joe Biden tonight, is happy to engage.
In the 1980s, Labour Member of Parliament (MP) Tony Banks said Margaret Thatcher was acting "with the sensitivity of a sex-starved boa-constrictor." MP Dennis Skinner accused a rival of being a "pompous sod" (under pressure, he retracted the word pompous, but not sod). This all goes way, way back. One legend has it that Benjamin Disraeli, a witty politician of the Victorian era, once told Parliament that half of the cabinet were asses. He was told to withdraw his comment by the speaker of the House. Disraeli supposedly replied: "Mr. Speaker, I withdraw. Half the cabinet are not asses." Disraeli would also say about a conservative prime minister of the era, “The Right Honourable Gentleman’s smile was like the silver plate on a coffin.”
Because, you know, British manners and all.
You'll note that we've gone this far without a single George Santos joke. If you watched the SOTU, you might have noticed Senator Mitt Romney passing Congressperson Kitara, er, Santos and remarking "you ought to be embarrassed" and "you don't belong here." This was according to witnesses and lipreaders viewing the video. It was difficult to tell how Santos replied, his back was turned to camera. We imagine it was something like, "Senator! That is no way to address the President of the United States. I said, 'Good Day.'"
BTW, Romney would tell reporters later that "I didn't expect that he'd be standing there (in an aisle seat) trying to shake hands with every senator and the president of the United States. He should be sitting in the back row and staying quiet instead of parading in front of the president and people coming into the room." The senator said Santos was "a sick puppy" for the lies he's told. Yikes!
Good reading for you this week. With the Chinese spy balloon taken care of, you have nothing more to fear, you can relax and enjoy.
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Memphis. MLK was murdered here, as was Tyre Nichols. Has anything changed in all those years? Will Memphis ever rise above its racist history? James Moore isn't sure that it's possible. Memphis isn't alone in its legacy, but in land of the Delta Blues, sometimes racism goes to the bone.
Myra Jolivet continues her series recognizing heroes whose names are rarely mentioned during the Black History Month speeches. This week she wanted to take about a few... nerds! And she's not talking about Urkel, here... (too obscure a reference?)
Roger has been contemplating the collected works of a trio of renowned historians and sociologists named Abbott, Patrick, and DeSantis and the changes they want to make in our education system. Or, more precisely, the changes they are fighting to the death, you know, just like at the Alamo. The question though is which Alamo history to tell, the John Wayne version or Billy Bob Thornton one.
"It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge... It is an area which we call The Twilight Zone."
It's really pretty easy to enter the Twilight Zone. It just takes a couple of provocative social media posts, or maybe a big balloon, made in China. Chris Newlin puts you back into the Zone.