Whether President Donald Trump deliberately refused to shake her hand or not, and whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should have ripped up his speech or not, the state of the union was apparent to anyone with a television Tuesday night, even if they turned the sound down.
We are a people divided or at least a government divided and bereft of any goodwill it seems — or even a veneer of it.
Neither side used the word, but the state of the union can be described as fractious, perhaps fractured.
The speech betrays who we are becoming as Americans and signals what is likely to happen.
And that is not much.
Little of consequence can get done when bad blood boils up so readily, so publicly, and that's a shame because important American priorities — health care, for example — cry for fixes.
Trump spent the first part of his speech touting the economy, and whether you think he deserves credit for it — or not — it's a political truth that presidents own it regardless of their policies, and he would no doubt be getting the blame if unemployment were climbing and the stock market falling. But let's remember that the economy is propped up by trillion-dollar deficits — subsidies, effectively, to be paid by future taxpayers — that have long been the work of both parties, and that are unsustainable.
Whether you think Rush Limbaugh deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom — or not — is secondary to a bigger question stalking Americans. Limbaugh is one of the nearly 1.8 million Americans diagnosed with cancer each year. Battling cancer and heart disease — the nation's top two killers, taking down 1.2 million Americans annually — should be a priority for politicians of every stripe. It is surely the health care issue around which everyone can rally.
Will it happen? Unlikely.
Trump also vowed to make sure preexisting conditions are covered by insurance providers and called for lower drug prescription costs.
Yes on both counts — if he is serious.
The former pledge is problematic. Trump has worked to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, which, while not perfect, at least offers protections for patients with preexisting conditions. One of Trump's alternatives does not protect those with preexisting conditions; another alternative does.
The latter is long overdue, and given what has happened to the cost of insulin and other lifesaving drugs in recent years, further delays in the fight to lower drugs costs are unconscionable.
The test in each case will be whether both sides, claiming they want the same end, can find common ground in a means to get there.
Color us skeptical.
Wall Street Journal columnist Peggy Noonan sent out a tweet Tuesday night that summed up what we were witnessing: “This is a ... cleaved-down-the-middle night with no one trying to hide the divide. No ameliorating courtesy, no enacting of formal regard. Just the great divide, unbidden and out there for all the world to see.”
Not only are our leaders no longer pretending, no longer disguising their disgust, they are unwilling to do anything to end it.