The annual rite of the televised State of the Union speech is all upside for the president, and a big downside for the opposition.
This maxim (which I just made up) was no less true Tuesday night, as Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union speech since taking office a year ago.
The contrasting imagery on television could not have been more stark. The president spent 90 minutes outlining his vision of a prosperous, strong America characterized by rising wages, falling unemployment, timely investments in new infrastructure, a stronger military, and basically, greater opportunities for every American regardless of religion or ethnicity.
And while he did this, prominent Democrats sat there with expressions on their faces that were so glum you would have thought they were attending a funeral instead of having this incredible opportunity to witness a presidential State of the Union speech in person. Where is your gratitude, people?
Senate Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer had a look on his face that made him seem as if he was thinking: “Jeez, I still can't believe this guy got elected.”
House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi seemed so unhappy that you wished someone would come down the aisle and hand her a puppy.
At one point in Trump’s speech, former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was hunched over in his seat looking uncomfortable, sad and even somewhat mystified. As he watched Trump make his speech, Sanders seemed to be thinking: “This could have been me up there.”
The democratic puss faces didn't play well on television at all. Their grumpy expressions made the democrats seem disconnected from what was going on -- which was: A president was in their midst delivering a message of hope. So why are all you Democrats so glum?
Sure, we all understand that the Democrats have adopted the point of view that nothing Donald Trump can say or do will ever bring a smile to their faces. He could have delivered a puppy personally to Nancy Pelosi and she would have still sat there scowling.
But the downcast faces on the Democratic side of the aisle made it seem as if their party stands for nothing more than just frowning. On television Tuesday night, such behavior seemed petty, childish and contrary.
At one point, Trump repeated his recent mantra about the state of African-American employment in America -- that, according to him, African-American employment stands at its highest levels in American history.
Cameras then showed the reactions of members of the Black Congressional Caucus sitting there stone-faced as if the president had just insulted them.
In one of the cleverest parts of the speech, Trump turned the immigration debate about “dreamers” on its head when he declared, “Americans are dreamers too.” Some White House speechwriter deserves a pat on the back for that one.
In their State of the Union speeches, all presidents -- regardless of party -- get a chance to shine. As Trump did on Tuesday night, they can list all of the things they hope to do, and articulate their vision of a united America in which citizens saluting the flag and pledging allegiance are working together to meet all challenges, both foreign and domestic.
None of what they say has to be 100% true -- or, in the case of much of it, have a ghost of a chance of ever coming to pass.
But an optimistic speech, even a baseless one, always plays better on television than a display of long faces.
Trump has at least two more of these speeches (and could have more if he stands for reelection in 2020 and wins).
Our advice to the Democrats: When you are on TV watching a Trump State of the Union speech, try and turn those frowns upside down. Or to put it another way: Try to grin and bear it.