Presidents use their State of the Union speeches to send a message to Congress, but lawmakers are increasingly using their guest tickets to send a message right back at him.
For last night’s address, Rep. Jim Langevin, Rhode Island Democrat, invited actor Michael J. Fox, whose campaign commercials in favor of expanded embryonic stem-cell research may have helped Democrats win control of the Senate.
From the other side of the aisle, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, California Republican, invited the wife of a U.S. Border Patrol agent whom the administration prosecuted for a shooting incident involving a suspected drug smuggler.
Meanwhile, Adrian M. Fenty, who as D.C. mayor would usually sit in first lady Laura Bush’s box, refused as a protest against the District’s lack of a voting representative in Congress. But the Democrat was present, as the guest of new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat.
“This has gotten to be such a big production about everything other than the address,” said one Senate aide. “It’s become a forum for everybody who wants to air grievances to a national audience rather than a forum to hear from the president on the state of the union.”
Mr. Rohrabacher, who has been a vocal critic of President Bush’s immigration plans, said inviting Monica Ramos “sends a powerful message” to the Bush administration.
Ignacio Ramos, Mrs. Ramos’ husband, and fellow agent, Jose Alonso Compean, have been imprisoned for shooting a drug-smuggling suspect in the buttocks after he assaulted one of them, dumped nearly 800 pounds of marijuana along the Rio Grande and then fled into Mexico. They are serving 11- and 12-year sentences, respectively.
“As these two fine men sit in federal prison cells unjustly, I am put in the position of consoling a devastated wife whose life has been destroyed, instead of having the opportunity to reward these men and their families for their brave service as law-enforcement officers,” Mr. Rohrabacher said.
Mr. Langevin, a quadriplegic and disabilities advocate who has pushed for broader stem-cell research, said he tries to invite guests who have a high profile on big issues. In 2005, he hosted Dana Reeve, wife of actor Christopher Reeve.
“Michael will help to further Chris and Dana’s legacy and underscore for the president just how serious I am about pursuing the promise of stem-cell research,” Mr. Langevin said after issuing his invitation to Mr. Fox.
Me? I watched 24 and Prison Break on my DVR. I’m losing interest in Prison Break because they put a gigantic, momentum-destroying hiatus in the season, so I’m sort of hoping it doesn’t make it to another season. Aggie likes it. Oh, and we also watched The Apprentice, Los Angeles. Ivanka Trump has a pretty funny name. The frog-faced girl quit, and was subjected to 17 minutes of incomprehensible moralizing and recriminations from Donald Trump.
What was I talking about again? Stem cells? Aren’t they in Prison Break?