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Pelosi Should Cancel the State of the Union Pageant

I very much enjoyed Jay Cost’s excellent essay on congressional supremacy earlier in the week. The urgent need for Congress to rediscover its institutional self-respect — as opposed to its swollen self-importance — is a frequent theme of Charlie’s and mine in Mad Dogs & Englishmen, and elsewhere. If the United States wishes to halt its slide into desultory monarchy, then Congress is going to have to assert its powers and privileges.

On that subject: Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, has asked the president to delay his State of the Union address until after the government shutdown is resolved. The political calculation there is too obvious to merit much comment. But here’s a thought. Irrespective of anyone’s views on the individuals serving as president and speaker at this time, it would be an excellent thing for the republic — a genuine civics lesson — if the speaker were to simply tell the president that he is not welcome in the chamber on January 29 and to instruct the sergeant-at-arms not to admit him. The hideous State of the Union pageant would not be much missed, and the American people would be reminded in a dramatic fashion that the president is the chief administrator of the federal bureaucracy, not a ruler, not an ersatz king, and not the personification of the nation.

Republicans offended by that notion should think about what their party is called and why it is called that.


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