There were signs of bipartisanship at the annual State of the Union address on Tuesday. The "date night" approach of recent years, with many members crossing the aisle to sit with a colleague of the opposing party, has given way to two coalitions of Republicans and Democrats seeking compromise.
More than 40 members pledged to wear orange lapel pins branded with "problem solvers," showing a commitment to "substantive cooperation" in the new Congress, according to the group coordinating the effort.
Perhaps it was in the same bipartisan spirit that a controversial figure was asked to attend.
Ted Nugent, the former rock star turned gun advocate notorious for his threatening, racist, homophobic and sexist language, was invited to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address as U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman of Texas’ guest.
“Politics is the art of compromise, and compromise is impossible in a world where the likes of Nugent are given a seat at the table alongside sane people of both parties whose agenda isn’t topped by saying whatever sort of deliberately incendiary nonsense they think will extend their 15 minutes,” said Mike Thompson of the Detroit Free Press.
Last April the Secret Service met with Nugent after he said at a National Rifle Association convention that, “If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year.”
“I am excited to have a patriot like Ted Nugent joining me in the House chambers to hear from President Obama,” said Stockman, a Republican. “After the address, I’m sure Ted will have plenty to say.”
The “Motor City Madman” hasn’t had a hit song for “eons and is now known primarily for his increasingly bizarre blather about politics. Instead of being just an embarrassment to us here in his native Michigan, Nugent now gives all Americans reason to feel mortified,” said Thompson.
Nugent shared the gallery with hundreds of other guests, including some two dozen people who have been shot or lost relatives to gun violence and are rooting for Obama to follow through on a gun-control agenda. He didn’t misbehave or disrespect the president, and wasn’t carrying any weapons. “I’m butt-naked,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
In 2010, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) became famous (or infamous) when he shouted “you lie” during Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress about health-care reform.