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The State of the Union Meets Facebook [Morning News]

president-barack-obamaLast night, President Obama delivered his first State of the Union address. It was also the first State of the Union address in the age of Facebook.

Immediately after the President’s speech, three members of the President’s staff answered questions from the general public. (The staffers were all cute young people, just like on the TV show “The West Wing.”) Here is a random selection of those questions.

In the interest of privacy, I’m removing the last names. Comments are cut and pasted directly from The White House Live Facebook page, spelling errors and all.

Brescian — When will you wake up and give up on being bipartisan wiht Republicans?! When will you wake up and give up on being bipartisan wiht Republicans?! When will you wake up and give up on being bipartisan wiht Republicans?! When will you wake up and give up on being bipartisan wiht Republicans?! When will you wake up and give up on being bipartisan wiht Republicans?! When will you wake up and.

Jessica — WAR IS OVERWAR IS OVERWAR IS OVERWAR IS OVERWAR IS OVERWAR IS OVERWAR IS OVERWAR IS OVERWAR IS OVERWAR IS OVERWAR IS OVERWAR IS OVERWAR IS OVERWAR IS OVERWAR IS OVERWAR IS OVER.

Elizabeth — YOU CAN’T RUN THE CASH FOR CLUNKERS…..HOW DO REALLY THINK YOU CAN TAKE ON A REAL JOB …LIKE RUN THIS COUNTRY?

Chase — Are you aware of the millions of displaced children and war torn countries such as Uganda under the cruel and tyrannical rule of men like Joseph Kony and if so, what do you plan to do about these situations?

Becky — Thanks to Michelle the military will get an extra 25 dollars a year great thanks 1.4 percent pay raise mmm I think our military is worth more then a measly 1.4 percent.

Pamela — I have found that I am paying almost $800 a month for health care; not because I have a luxury health plan but because the basic plan that I have that is available to me is extremely expensive. One thing that concerned me was that one way to pay for health care reform was to tax high priced health plans which cost more than $8000 a year. I would be penalized further because the only plan that I can have is costly.

Donna — We Have a President that is finally working for US.

Thought Criminal A GOOD SPEAKER DOES NOT MAKE AN HONEST SPEAKER.

Derrick — Legalize marijuana. Stop putting otherwise innocent Americans in jail. Begin generating tax revenue on one of the biggest cash crops in our country. Stop sending that money to illegal drug cartels and begin helping legitimate American business people. Let law enforcement focus on REAL crimes. Focus more on rehabilitation than incarceration.

Phew. And that was just a few of them. It looked like comments were being made at a rate of several per minute, possibly several hundred per minute, I couldn’t tell. Again, these were selected randomly using a method I refer to as “double-clicking the laptop touchpad button.” Some of the comments are, of course, wacky (repeating the same words over and over, anything in all caps). This one, however, I agree with.

Ginger — I think that airing these responses from the party other than the President’s just promotes partisanship. There is only one President and only he can talk to the State of the Union; this is not a campaign speech and therefore no response is approproiate. The media is not helping. How did these responses start and how can we stop them.

I remember wondering about this when I first started paying attention to the State of the Union address. Why is there a response from the other party? I’m not saying this because we currently have a Democratic President; I can clearly recall having this thought during the Presidency of George H.W. Bush, and also during the Presidency of his son. Ginger, whose comment is quoted above, puts it quite well — “airing these responses from the party other than the President’s just promotes partisanship.” It reinforces the idea of “us against them.” What can be done about it? Probably nothing. But that doesn’t make it a good thing.

This ties into something President Obama spoke about in his State of the Union speech last night — the “perpetual campaign.”

We cannot wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about their opponent a belief that if you lose, I win.

This reminded me of something that the great theater producer Alexander H. Cohen once said — “In theater, it is not enough that we succeed. Others must fail.” (I’m paraphrasing slightly.) He was, I think, joking, but he was right. In the theater, when that attitude exists, it doesn’t matter much to the world at large. (Except for the unfortunate people who actually have to work with those who share that belief. For them, it matters a lot.) President Obama went on to say that he would “not give up on changing the tone of our politics.” I didn’t see the President’s whole speech, but I thought this was an interesting statement.

If you actually think about it, President Obama has done a decent job of not descending into the morass of “he said/she said” politicking. Has he been completely above the fray? Of course not. But consider what he has been called, and the complete lack of respect he has received since taking office. Last night, during the State of the Union address, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito mouthed “not true” when the President said, “Last week, the Supreme Court reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests – including foreign corporations – to spend without limit in our elections.”

A commenter at Huffington Post said that Alito “called out” the President for “making stuff up” and did so “in a subtle and classy way.” Shaking your head and mouthing the words “not true” is neither subtle, nor is it classy. (Talk amongst yourselves.) And while it appears that Alito “may have had a point” about the Supreme Court decision, according to NPR, it is also true that “the majority wrote so broadly about corporate free speech rights as to call into question other limitations as well,” according to Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times.

Really, though, that doesn’t matter. Why not? Because no one can deny that President Obama has received the least amount of basic respect for the office than any President in history. Was George W. Bush ridiculed more? Probably. But not from day one. The attacks on President Obama began during his campaign, and got much worse as soon as he won the election. Some of that is due to the fact that there are more talk shows with more pundits (how many talking heads can you have on a screen at one time? Sheesh) expressing their opinions than at any time in history. And part of it is because of the Internet, and Facebook. By creating a two-way dialog with The Hive (my term for comments, social media, YouTube, etc.) President Obama opens himself up even more for criticism both deserved and dopey. That may not be change we can believe in, but it is a change.

A few other items today…

As an example that perhaps President Obama is managing to change the tone of political discourse, even just a little, GOP Chairman Michael Steele said yesterday that he is against Ideology Tests for Republican candidates.

Good essay from Thomas L. Friedman in yesterday’s New York Times. He says that “the last few weeks in American politics particularly unnerving.” Not because Scott Brown was elected, but because that seems to be more important to politicians on both sides of the aisle than the fact that the U.S. economy is still a mess, we’re involved in two wars… you know. Stuff that actually matters.

Speaking of things that matter, yesterday was Apple Tablet Day. CNN says that the iPad name led to feminine hygiene jokes. Ahem. I made this joke first on BlogTalkRadio yesterday as we followed the launch of the Apple Tablet live. However, Pat Kiernan points out that “MAD TV did a spoof on the iPad in 2007.” Video:

That is now officially the funniest  MAD TV sketch ever.

Actress Zelda Rubinstein died. She played the “spirit talker Tangina” in Steven Spielberg’s ‘Poltergeist’, which PopEater calls a “cult film” for some reason. That movie scared me.

I’ll have more to say about the iPad tomorrow. Try to hang on until then. Here’s a song to help you.

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