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Unity at the State of the Union?

January 25, 2011 - Joselyn King
Actually, the pageantry and spectacle of it all was always interesting to watch. The tradition at the annual State of the Union address always has been for Democrats to sit on one side of the chamber, and Republicans on the other.

As the president spoke, those of his political would stand and cheer at what they saw as salient points. Those of the opposing party, meanwhile, would sit on their hands -- or worse.

Who can forget the late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., leafing through a booklet of some sort (a copy of the speech) and seemingly not paying much attention to the words of former president George W. Bush. Or Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., apparently nodding off during an address from President Obama.

It could be different tonight. Members are asking those from across the aisle to sit with them during the speech -- a "political date," some are calling it.

U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., says she will sit with members of the Women's Congressional softball team. It's likely this will be touted as a show of unity supporting their teammate and colleague, U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz..

U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., said he will be "sitting among his colleagues," but has asked U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. to join him. Manchin said last week it is likely he will sit with U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.. "We usually do sit together," Manchin said, noting that he and Hoeven became friends while members of National Governors Association.

Some -- bitter, cynical types who never have anything positive to say -- might say this "bi-partisan mixer" is all for show. They might not even want bi-partisan accord.

It is all for show. Anything wrong with that?

Agreement on important issues of our time is in no way assured just because members of Congress have decided to sit in civil fashion with someone from the opposing side. What they need to do next is sit down side by side at the same table.

It's a new time, a new Congress and time for new way of thinking. Get with the program.


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