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Posted at 3:06 PM ET, 01/13/2011

Is bipartisan SOTU seating an idea whose time has come?

By Greg Sargent

In the wake of the shooting, Senator Mark Udall has been talking up the idea of mixed bipartisan seating at the upcoming State of the Union address, and now the idea has picked up the endorsement of the new chief of Senate Dem messaging, Chuck Schumer.

In a statement sent my way, Schumer throws his weight behind the idea:

"Senator Udall has the right idea. This would be a great way to start off the new session in a bipartisan way following up on the cooperation during the lame duck and the President's speech urging all Americans to come together."

Several other Dem Senators have already endorsed the idea, but Schumer's support gives it real weight and makes it more likely to happen, because he's taking over as the architect of the Senate Dems' political shop. Republicans haven't yet addressed the idea.

The concept behind the idea, as articulated by Udall, is that divided seating -- and the resulting sight of one side sitting down while the other stands and claps -- is unbecoming and reinforces the appearance of an institution divided irrevocably along partisan lines. The mixed seating is obviously a cosmetic gesture, but in a town that tends to worship bipartisan gestures, talk about the idea is likely to get a lot of attention.

UPDATE, 3:21 p.m.: A colleague argues that the idea is all but certain not to happen, since House Speaker John Boehner controls the House chamber and presumably would make the final decision, but even so, if the idea gains steam it will get more media attention, given D.C.'s nonstop fetishing of bipartisanship. I've edited the above a bit.

UPDATE, 3:26 p.m.: Actually, here's more. I'm told there is no prohibition on people crossing the aisle, so this would be left up to individual members. So if the idea gains traction you may well see some crossing of the aisle and a lot of swooning about it from centrist opinionmakers.

UPDATE, 5:11 p.m.: The centrist group Third Way appears to be the first to come up with the bipartisan seating idea.

By Greg Sargent  | January 13, 2011; 3:06 PM ET
Categories:  Senate Dems, Senate Republicans  
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Comments

O please let it be. I would love to see senator Jim Demint, and Congresswoman Maxine Waters sitting side by side, holding hands.

It could lead to those two crazy kids falling in love, and getting married.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 13, 2011 3:13 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of the Senate Greg, what's the latest on the filibuster reform package? Is the Senate actually "in session" yet?

Posted by: jnc4p | January 13, 2011 3:14 PM | Report abuse

cao: Or, anybody else running iCab on a later-than-first-generation iPhone . . .

Anybody running iCab on an iPhone want to help me test Troll Hunter for iCab? It has issues on the 1st gen iPhone, I want to see if that's true in later generations.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 13, 2011 3:15 PM | Report abuse

This is a silly idea without any substance. Does Udall have to be reminded who he's dealing with?
Boehner didn't even bother hopping on Air Force 1 to go to Tucson yesterday. He was too busy pressing the flesh and knocking back a martini or two (or three). So much for leadership. I wonder if he was concerned that his tears and sobbing would have drowned out (no pun intended) the speakers, and have the whole country see what a great big Nancy Boy he is.

Posted by: filmnoia | January 13, 2011 3:42 PM | Report abuse

I'd want to sit next to Joe Miller.
Or right behind the right wing SCOTUS men, if they show up.
It whisper needling asides until they explode, ooops I mean have an uncontrolled structural decomposition like popcorn.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 13, 2011 3:43 PM | Report abuse

Kevin_Willis: Just a brief note of thanks for Troll Hunter. I had decided a day or two ago that I would stick it out, and even read what the loons had to say, here. Fortunately, there seem to be only a couple of loons, and they say the same thing, over and over again, so blocking them doesn't seem to be much of a sacrifice in the quest for understanding all sides of the debate(s).
.

Posted by: jprestonian | January 13, 2011 3:47 PM | Report abuse

With this new batch of Joe Millers elected, you can be sure the civility will be sucked out of the air again.

I wouldn't be surprised to see a pre-planned staged walk out tbh.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | January 13, 2011 3:50 PM | Report abuse

@Jpreston: "Just a brief note of thanks for Troll Hunter."

If you like it all that much, why don't you send me some money?

Or, failing that, make a donation to St. Jude's Children's Hospital. They do good work.

Anyone out there using iCab on iPhone?

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 13, 2011 3:51 PM | Report abuse

"If you like it all that much, why don't you send me some money?"

I'd be happy to, as soon as I get a regular paycheck again. It's been a while, now. If not for the fact that I know someone at a Big Telecomm concern, I wouldn't even have Internet access, save at free WiFi locations.
.

Posted by: jprestonian | January 13, 2011 3:55 PM | Report abuse

"the quest for understanding all sides"

Yes there are plenty of articulate, interactive (not preoccupied with autistic stimuli) conservatives here. No worries about an echo chamber, unless you don't use the TB.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 13, 2011 3:57 PM | Report abuse

I use iphone but no iCab...sorry.

Is it superior to Safari?

Posted by: mikefromArlington | January 13, 2011 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Greg, what is latest over-under on Michael Steele surviving the recall, I mean election next week? Did he really give enough donor money to cronies in the US "possessions" to hang on? Boy would that be embarrassing. Add that to the tantrum Palin is going to throw when she realizes what happened yesterday and I'll bet the Rs will be relieved to have just plain Mitt lead them to defeat in 2012.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 13, 2011 4:07 PM | Report abuse

@jprestonian: "I'd be happy to, as soon as I get a regular paycheck again."

Ah! I can wait (and I'll be there, always waiting . . . waiting) , and have been there, many a time. Good luck to you, I'm sure things will turn up for you, soon.

Best thing about being unemployed? I had to cancel cable. That was awesome. Wish I could talk the family into it again, but alas . . .

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 13, 2011 4:08 PM | Report abuse

@mike: "I use iphone but no iCab...sorry."

Yeah, I didn't use it, either, but was interesting in getting userscripts to run on an iPhone. And iCab does do the trick . . . sort of. What I've tried so far has been problematic. Basically, I can't get around requiring the user to automatically trigger the script each time, which is not user friendly.

Still, it has the ability to download files. Other handy features. I think it's probably worth the 1.99. I like the scroll pad--you tap with three fingers and a big square appears, allowing you to easily jump to the side or to the bottom, turning it into a kind of virtual trackpad.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | January 13, 2011 4:12 PM | Report abuse

I will settle for Republicans not interrupting the President's speech this year with adolescent name calling. Hopefully Boehner will not allow such uncivil behavior to be displayed again.

Posted by: Beeliever | January 13, 2011 4:16 PM | Report abuse

Here is a topic for Obama's SOTU...

"Banks repossessed a record one million US homes in 2010, and could surpass that number this year, figures show.

"2011 is going to be the peak," senior vice-president Rick Sharga told the Associated Press news agency

Foreclosure tracker RealtyTrac said about five million homeowners are now at least two months behind on their mortgage payments. Among the worst hit states were Nevada, Arizona, Florida and California...Nevada had the highest foreclosure rate for the fourth year in a row, with one in 11 housing units receiving a foreclosure notice..."

Wow. Obama's economic policies relieved everyone of the moral hazard of the housing bubble debacle, except Lehman, BS and retail borrowers. Maybe, since the peak is still to come, they could help out somehow. I've seen lots of ideas. Better late than never?

Posted by: shrink2 | January 13, 2011 4:20 PM | Report abuse

It's a fine idea. It is symbolic but symbolic can be done positively too.

But given McConnell's admission a couple of weeks back that their strategy had been to avoid any appearance of bipartisanship in legislation, I'm pretty certain that Boehner will continue to find value in projecting an us/them framing.

And I think it ought to be obvious as well that as "bipartisanship" (held as an admirable and desirable framework for conceiving government) has been a key element of Obama's message from the beginning (which voters responded to), it is in the interests of Republicans, if they are cynical and care most about reaching for power, to continue to eviscerate everyone's hopes that such a thing is possible - thus negating a key positive in how people imagine or think of Obama.

Posted by: bernielatham | January 13, 2011 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Greg:

"Is bipartisan SOTU seating an idea whose time has come?"

I think the end to televised SOTU addresses is an idea whose time has come. The SOTU is not supposed to be a political pep rally. It is supposed to be a report from the President to Congress about the, er, State of the Union. For years it was submitted simply as a written report and not even given as a speech in person. But of course, in this age of television, it becomes a campaign speech. That is it routinely a partisan political speech rather than a "report" is precisely why we now have to suffer through not only the SOTU, but also the oppositions "response".

End take out the television cameras and the partisan nature of it, the cheering, the tedious standing ovations every couple of minutes, indeed the entire campaign-like nature of the speech itself will go away.

(BTW...I was arguing this same point 8 years ago as well, so it has nothing to do with the current occupant of the White House.)

Posted by: ScottC3 | January 13, 2011 4:23 PM | Report abuse

Jeff Goldberg posts a video which I hadn't seen before. It's rather scary...

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/01/an-unbelievable-video-of-political-madness/69530/

Posted by: bernielatham | January 13, 2011 4:24 PM | Report abuse

I realize it's only optics but I think sometimes optics are very important. I like this idea a lot and if the Dems are serious they should really try to find a couple R's to share the idea with and let them share in the credit for trying to foster bi-partisan spirit.

@shrink "I'll bet the Rs will be relieved to have just plain Mitt lead them to defeat in 2012."

I would not disagree with you that he is the best choice out of the so called "presumptive" candidates but this is the perfect time for an "Obama" style candidate to come out of the woodwork.
I bring you back here to Florida Shrink.
Jeb Bush has that toxic last name...he is no Tea Party fave..and he's just yesterday's news.

On the other hand...a politican who I'm sure you've heard of...a guy I do not respect ethically...he and his cronies sold out state out to the special interests and they PROFITED big time when he was speaker of the Florida House...but here is prediction for you....do not forget Marco Rubio. He's still very young and dynamic. He's incredibly bright, he has a personal back story every bit as compelling as Obama, son of Cuban immigrants who worked day and night to educated him etc....hard work...individual responsibility...pull yourself up by the bootstraps...the TeaParty loves him even though he is a very typical R. Perhaps it's the life story...along with the fact that he is handsome, articulate, and a very slick campaigner.

Rubio has said he just wants to be a Senator for now...and indeed 2012 may be a cycle to early for him since he will only have been in the Senate for two years (can you say Barack Obama) and he is of course Hispanic which would really throw a monkey wrench into how the various groups lineup come election time.

He is anathema to me policy wise but I must confess I am getting sooo sick of Republican intellectual lightweights and outright buffoons...Palin, Gohmert, Foxx, Bachmann, King, Tancredo...these people insult my intelligence...at least Marco is very bright and well educated. Ooops I guess that last bit disqualifies him in the current R party. He's too smart and well educated...must be some kind of pointy headed elitist to have that much book learnin'.

Posted by: rukidding7 | January 13, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

@Scott Largely agree with your observations about SOTU and the politicization of that annual event.

I agree with most of your solutions..although I'm not really comfortable with taking out the TV cameras.
Could we compromise by simply waiting until the "royal" arrival scene is over...Pick up the feed as the President approaches the podium...show on a very few cutaway shots of the crowd..concentrate on the Pres remarks. Won't completely solve what I feel you have accurately described as something undesirable but at least we could calm it down some.

Posted by: rukidding7 | January 13, 2011 4:56 PM | Report abuse

Chris Cristie contrasts himself with Palin and finds that Cristie comes out on top...

http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/12/christie-says-palin-needs-to-go-unscripted-to-contend-for-2012/

I think he does too. But it's not a high bar.

Posted by: bernielatham | January 13, 2011 4:59 PM | Report abuse

Another OT

"Whatever It Takes

Over the last few months, we've brought you news that prominent social conservative Bryan Fischer has blamed gays for the Wikileaks disclosure, told readers that Obama wants to give America back to the Indians, declared that bears are a threat to our Judeo-Christian culture, declared that no new mosques should be built anywhere in America and insisted that Hitler preferred using gay soldiers since they had "no limits."

And just yesterday, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (doing everything he can to get right with the right) went on Fischer's radio show to declare that he'd push to reinstate DADT if he were elected president."

http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/2011/01/whatever_it_takes_3.php?ref=fpblg

Posted by: bernielatham | January 13, 2011 5:02 PM | Report abuse

God knows how many times I've written something here about Charles Krauthammer which his mother wouldn't have liked very much. But his performance here on FOX after last night's speech is honest, measured, kind and very astute...

http://crooksandliars.com/john-amato/president-obamas-speech

Posted by: bernielatham | January 13, 2011 5:33 PM | Report abuse

ruk, yes, I agree not just Rubio but a few of the shall we say more serious R people are lining up for 2016, when the Ds will have the same problem, no obvious candidate. That is going to be an interesting election cycle, that will be the year when we find out whether the Rs are coming back into power. November was either a false summit or a high point on the way down.

Posted by: shrink2 | January 13, 2011 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Where will Justice Alito be sitting?

Posted by: clawrence12 | January 13, 2011 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Claw,

On his puppet master, Scalia's knee.

Posted by: Liam-still | January 13, 2011 6:54 PM | Report abuse

Whenever there is a joint session of Congress, I'd like to see everyone sitting with their own state's delegation.

Posted by: sarabee | January 14, 2011 2:08 PM | Report abuse

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