Our View: Speech dates lack substance

Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich have made much of their efforts to reach across party lines and tonight's State of the Union address by President Obama is a prime example. They'll be sitting next to members of the opposing party.

Fine. But it's a safe bet that this show of collegiality will never be confused with the unity of purpose of Great Britain's World War II national government.

Yes, that's an exaggerated comparison. Britain was fighting for its life and standing alone. We can be thankful that our problems are a lot more manageable, despite all the talk of the Republic on the brink.

But what's galling about this show is the need for it, and the sense that Murkowski and Begich, while honest in their good will, are making too much of too little.

Our lawmakers know that they're held in low regard by much of the nation, polling near single digits in approval ratings.

They know Alaskans and the rest of the nation are tired of gridlock and the fact that everything -- everything -- appears secondary to election-year calculations.

If Congress wants to show the nation something, try this:

Skip the theater of party-line stony silences and raucous applause to every other phrase of the president's speech. By all means, give him a rousing welcome and a warm exit.

But during the speech, look like representatives who take the job seriously. Congressional behavior during these speeches brings up the memory of an old Jay Leno dig, when his studio audience was oohing and aahing at every line by some trash-talking guest and Leno said something like, "Oh, c'mon. You sound like a bunch of sixth graders."

Spare us. Without interruptions, the speech will be shorter. Then the GOP will have its response. And on Wednesday we'll begin to see if there's any unity of purpose beyond seating arrangements.

BOTTOM LINE: Show of amity is nice but nothing more.