Sure, President Obama had the unenviable job of delivering a 7,000-word speech to a room of semi-hostile listeners. But where State of the Union scrutiny is concerned, it’s Vice President Biden and Senator Boehner who have the really uncomfortable job.
For the entirety of the president’s hour-plus speech, Biden and Boehner had to maintain unfalteringly polite, attentive smiles while millions of people grabbed screenshots of every sigh or eye roll for posterity. But Biden skipped “polite attentiveness” and went straight for manic enthusiasm, as he’s wont to do. Boehner, meanwhile, cycled through a series of understated grimaces that lit up Twitter and Tumblr Tuesday night.
Which politician looked more ridiculous probably depends on your politics. Here’s Boehner:
— John Myers (@johnmyers) January 29, 2014
Boehner's face right now is the exact face I made three weekends ago just before I vomited Jameson into a backpack. pic.twitter.com/GA5xI5Z7OG
— Parageusia (@awfulmillenial) January 29, 2014
— JulieAnn McKellogg (@jmckellogg) January 29, 2014
— dominic rushe (@dominicru) January 29, 2014
— Eric D. Madison (@ericmadison) January 29, 2014
I can't get over John Boehner's face behind president Obama. You mad? pic.twitter.com/pSvnehdOZB
— Fearless (@ALivingMiracle) January 29, 2014
— Rod Babers (@rodb314) January 29, 2014
— ✨ (@MarilynMochaa) January 29, 2014
The above photo, we should note, was not taken at this year’s speech — though the comparison still stands. Here’s Biden:
— Annie Barrett (@EWAnnieBarrett) January 29, 2014
Obama is going hard and Biden's sitting back there texting. C'mon man pic.twitter.com/MFxzbuYNco
— Cole Massie (@Cole_Massie) January 29, 2014
— John Boehner Tan (@BoehnerTans) January 29, 2014
— Brandon Mickey (@Brandon__Mickey) January 29, 2014
Bullseye. Biden's focused face. Lmao… pic.twitter.com/flegg84hjg
— Ren-sanity (@RJPJR) January 29, 2014
Joe Biden looks like Martin Short when he plays Jack Frost in one of the Santa Clause movies. pic.twitter.com/dpIFblTmmr
— Sadie Pyne (@Sadiepyne) January 29, 2014
Funny as this all may be, Biden and Boehner’s reactions are — in some circles — actually considered pretty important, just like when and how much the audience applauds. Hill-watchers analyze and overanalyze these things for hints on how well the president’s policies will be received. Over at The Fix, Jaime Fuller has a fascinating history of when all that started and how well it works. Maybe not that well, it turns out.
“I have trouble engaging in such evaluations, being constantly distracted by the … mime-like facial contortions, to which we will be treated by the Vice President and the Speaker of the House,” Ed Kilgore wrote at Washington Monthly.
We have no complaints about said mime-like contortions. It makes SOTU screenshots all the better for Photoshopping.