President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address tonight. As has become customary, the Republican Party—or should I say the Republic Party, to mirror the standard slur against Democrats from the party of the rich and the clueless—will be given the opportunity to dispute everything the President has to say. Whereas in recent years there was a single Republican response, there have lately been several, reflecting the full diversity of the Loyal Opposition—wacky, demented, and stark-raving bonkers. Wacky is represented this year by freshman Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst, who will, not doubt, be taking her symbolic knife to the President’s symbolic private parts. (See Steve Benen’s comments on the MaddowBlog.)
Why do the Republicans get the chance to dispute the President’s message on national television anyway? The Constitution requires that the Chief Executive report to the country on the state of the Union, but it says nothing of giving equal time to dissenting opinions. Republicans may be interviewed after a presidential news conference, but opposing politicians are not given free air time to say anything they choose. And why don’t other parties get to make a national address cutting into our prime-time viewing? Where is the Green Party response? The Communist Party response?
Actually, the Greens are planning their own response on the Web. I don’t think the Communists are planning anything similar, but it seems they may simply be satisfied with what the President has to say. (See their current action items here.)
If the Republicans or any other party wants to address the nation after the President’s speech, I think they should buy time. Isn’t that the free enterprise way?
Of course, Republicans have a particular need to respond quickly to President Obama. Unless they are immediately told that what he says is wrongheaded, grassroots Republicans might be swayed by Mr. Obama’s logic and rhetoric. Since most of the party base will be watching Fox News, this is a minor concern, but some people may have simply kept the television on the channel of whatever program they were watching before the State of the Union address. That channel might not have been Fox News.