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Skin in the game

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Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
 

Aside from the Levon Helm tribute at last week's Grammy Awards, the big talk was about Katy Perry's dress. Perry must not have received the CBS memo that prohibited bare skin on the broadcast because she sported a mint-green number with an open window of sorts at the top where there is often fabric.

As a result, Perry exhibited quite a bit about herself, not unlike Republicans at the State of the Union address a few days later. There always is more than a little show biz at the annual presidential report to Congress and this year was no different.

Keeping track of who clapped and who sat on his hands is fun. It's easy to imagine President Obama's guys coming up with lines sure to bait the opposition and then exchanging mirthful texts when wholesome proposals to protect our children or save the environment are met with Republican sourpusses.

It makes you wonder why these politicians take the bait. What public official, knowing that the whole event is televised live, could refuse to applaud a call for fair pay for women? But there they were, three Republican women during a cutaway shot at that very moment, playing the scolds, with one providing a pronounced Alito-like negatory head shake.

When the president proposed linking the minimum wage to the cost of living, as Mitt Romney had suggested during his losing presidential bid, Romney's running-mate Paul Ryan seemed trapped between a smirk and a frown and could not muster even a faux clap. And a proposal to create a commission to study voting rights, to be headed by the campaign lawyers for both Obama and Romney, got the same reaction.

Republicans even refused to clap for bridge repair. Surely, every congressional district has a bridge or two that needs fixing, so what is the political advantage in opposing safer bridges? As the president recognized, even though they refuse to be caught applauding anything he says, they still all show up for the ribbon cuttings in their own districts.

And when Marco Rubio's big moment came to provide the Republican response to the president's speech, the proclaimed new voice of the Republican Party performed more like the old Richard Nixon, with a bad case of the sweats and dry mouth.

Watching him lick his lips with increasing frequency, you knew he could not resist for long the temptation to dive for a gulp of cold water. And dive he did. Style points aside, it was quickly obvious that the speech he was given to read was not responsive to the speech the president had just given.

Much-touted national showcases often fall short of expectations, as Rubio's did. Both Bobby Jindal and Bill Clinton failed to impress when first chosen for the national spotlight, but they recovered. Maybe Rubio will, too.

Still, at the end of the day, Katy Perry looks pretty good.

Joseph Sabino Mistick, a lawyer, law professor and political analyst, lives in Squirrel Hill (SabinoMistick@aol.com).

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