Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Seen but not spoken of. More tax cuts for the rich? Well, what did you expect? War with Iraq? Whatever. The real news in last night's State of the Union address was in what President Bush didn't do. For the first time in nearly a generation, the president eschewed the treacly practice of introducing the guests who get invited to sit with the first lady.

Last year, in his first State of the Union address, Bush had no choice: the wounds of 9/11 were still raw. He paid tribute to Shannon Spann, the widow of CIA agent Michael Spann, who was killed during an attempted jail break in Afghanistan; the newly installed Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai, and his minister of women's affairs; and the flight attendants who stopped would-be shoe-bomber Richard Reid.

This time, though, his guests were seen but not acknowledged. And thus a cheap publicity stunt begun two decades ago by Ronald Reagan, and continued by George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, was finally brought to a close, if only for one year. George W. may yet ruin the country, but at least he restored a bit of dignity to a solemn occasion.

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