This year’s uninspiring SOTU reminded me of an ancient comedy wisecrack: “I’ve had a wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.”

That perfectly describes my evening last week with TMITWH (that man in the White House). That would be the annual bloviation describing the SOTU (State of the Union).

The evening began at my house with a circle of phone calls and emails, asking my limited list of friends and relatives if they were going to watch.

The answers varied.

“I’ll be at my granddaughter’s basketball game.”

“You’re kidding?”


“I’m washing my hair tonight.”

“I’m having a tooth extracted.”

“You’re going to watch that?”

Yes, I always watch it, mostly because all of my favorite shows are pre-empted. How can anyone mingle comfortably with the chattering class if one does not?

I vaguely remember my first. I was watching Dwight Eisenhower’s 1958 SOTU with Rachel Feinberg in her apartment out on Avenue M in Brooklyn that night.

We didn’t really watch it. We chatted and nibbled on matzohs and jam. The matzohs were stale; Rachel was fresh. True story.


Now in the year of our Lord 2019, I found myself with She, who looked up now and then from her book.

We tuned in early to watch the red carpet introductions, forgetting that this is not Oscar night, and there was nary a gown in sight. She went back to her book.

I was left alone to be greeted by a widescreen view of the Valley of Hart Schaffner Marx in a scene that filled my 50-inch Sony with row after row of suits in various shades of brown and gray with shirt and tie combos that clearly came in the same box.

I’m sure that progressive males wore Cole Haan loafers with tassels, and the elderly, far-right gentlemen slipped into comfortable, sensible Johnston and Murphys inherited from their fathers. Style is everything on the Hill.

The very best people were there in droves, of course. The very young, such as Hawaii’s Tulsi Gabbard and Arkansas’ Tom Cotton, were scattered throughout. The elders such as Iowa’s Chuck Grassley and Alabama’s Richard Shelby wisely sat close to the hall door nearest the men’s room.

It amused me to see the expressions on the faces of those of advanced age. These are men with aging bladders. You could see them squirm in their seats all night.


Watch the taped version and see how fast the old men exited the room the second TMITWH dropped the mic.

A highlight emerged when the camera floated across the floor to discover a bevy of women all dressed in splendid white, like the all-girl band in Billy Wilder’s “Some Like it Hot.”

This, we’re told, was a tribute to the early suffragettes. I plan to Google that later.

TMITWH gave us his delivery of a totally expected script clearly written by senior adviser Stephen Miller. I watched as he turned his head to the left and the right, the way Charlie McCarthy used to when he and Edgar Bergen viewed a tennis game.

Someone on the inside leaked a notion that TMITWH tried to bribe the cameramen to keep close-ups on him, thus cutting Madame Pelosi out of the frame. An apocryphal tale, I’m sure.

Having finally exhausted my patience for more repeats of this tradition, I’ve come up with some suggestions for next year’s SOTU that would draw in a younger crowd and kick up the ratings. If I may:


A GGSOTU (Golden Globe State Of The Union) with a time limit to the speech of say, 30 minutes.

First, move the evening to the historic Mayflower Hotel, where tables with linen cloths can be arranged and wine and goodies can be served. Everyone who has watched the Golden Globes or the annual Jefferson-Jackson Day fundraising dinner or attended an Irish wedding knows how a few goodnatured drunks can brighten the evening.

I suggest a standard opening act, something big stars in Las Vegas use to warm up the crowd. This would happen before POTUS enters the room. Who better than comedian Billy Crystal for the Democratic president; and perhaps Mike Huckabee, who currently has his own night spot show, for the Republican.

And how about an icebreaker right after the address, where the new president takes questions from the crowd?

Ah, well. As every performer from theaters to movies always says, MNY? (Maybe next year?)


J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.


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