Let the controversy begin.
The glare of said spotlight can be harsh, as any politician can attest. And at least two controversies have bubbled up in the week since the speech.
Today the Washington Post reported that delivering the GOP response from the floor of the Virginia House of Delegates appears to be a violation of the chamber’s rules. According to the Post, “Rule 82 forbids the use of the chamber for a purpose other than House business unless the full House or Rules Committee votes to allow it.”
House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) disagreed that any rules were broken. He told the Post he had the authority to allow McDonnell to use the chamber because the speech took place after the House had already adjourned for the day. And anyway, “I don’t think it’s a big deal,” Howell said. “The guy’s the governor of the state.”
C. Richard Cranwell, a 30-year vet of the House and now Chairman of the Virginia Democratic party, said using the House for a partisan speech did not sit well with him. He told the Post that Speaker Howell should apologize to the people of Virginia.
For other critics, it’s not the place as much as the people in it. The day after the governor’s speech, blogger Rob Diamond, a Navy Veteran and Security Fellow with the Truman National Security Project, wrote this on Huffington Post:
“You did not have to be paying much attention during last night’s Republican Response to President Obama’s State of the Union address to notice a young Army Staff Sergeant in full dress uniform seated prominently behind Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and enthusiastically applauding and cheering at the governor’s attacks on Democrats.”
Diamond goes on to cite a Department of Defense Directive that prohibits government employees from engaging in partisan political activity in an official capacity. And thus, Diamond concludes:
“Since a DoD Directive is considered to be in the same category as an order or regulation, and military personnel violating its provisions can be considered in violation of Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, our Republican friends may have just caused this brave young soldier to break the law. Thank you for that, Governor McDonnell.”
Diamond also anticipated arguments about the presence of the military at the State of the Union when he wrote:
“The State of the Union is not a partisan political gathering (as the Republican response clearly is). The State of the Union is mandated in the Constitution, and the entire government -- Republicans, Democrats, Independents -- as well the Cabinet, members of the Supreme Court and the Joint Chiefs of Staff all gather to hear the President address the nation. The State of the Union is the exact opposite of a partisan political gathering. It is the heart and soul of our government coming together 'from time to time' to address the entire nation on the state of our union.”
For those keeping score:
- President Obama’s State of the Union: More than an hour.
- Gov. McDonnell’s Republican Response: 12 minutes.
- Possibilities for Controversy: Endless.