In last night's State of the Union address, the president spent more than an hour addressing hefty issues, from America's failing education system to the deficit, and critics have zealously dissected his every syllable. But a number of less weighty issues received critical scrutiny, too — from Rep. Paul Ryan's aggressively gleaming hair to Michelle Obama's dress. Here are six non-policy points of discussion:
1. Michele Bachmann's "crazy eyes"
Bachmann's Tea Party rebuttal is being noted as much for her sideways stare as for its content. Not only was her rebuttal laced "with all sorts of nonsense about rising debt and Iwo Jima," says Jeff Neumann at Gawker, the "Tea Party zombie" consistently stared off-camera with "crazy eyes." Was she looking at a "tall statue of George Washington, or maybe of Darth Vader?" mused Ken Tucker in Entertainment Weekly. Keith Olbermann wondered if the issues were technical. "Did the Tea Party not spring either for a Camera Red Light or a combined camera-teleprompter?" he asks via Twitter. "It costs $3."
2. A domestic dress
After catching flak for wearing a dress by a British designer — the late Alexander McQueen — to last week's state dinner with Chinese President Hu Jintao, commentators have been quick to note that Michelle Obama wisely chose an American designer, Rachel Roy, last night. The first lady's "conservative... understated" silver sheath stood "out against the darker-colored suits surrounding her," says Alexandra Cheney in The Wall Street Journal. Still, various gripers were miffed that the long-sleeved look concealed her much-admired biceps.
3. Paul Ryan's "Eddie Munster hair"
Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) response to Obama's speech was "pretty good," says Chris Rovzar in New York, despite his "uncanny Eddie Munster hair," complete with widow's peak, and "weirdly bloodshot eyes." Yeah, it looked as though "we [had] just caught him smoking up in what he thought was an empty classroom," jokes Alex Pareene at Salon.
4. Bipartisan ties
President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Speaker of the House John Boehner all wore purplish ties last night, and fashion watchers are interpreting the bluish-reddish neckwear as a calculated political move. The tie choices "may be a visual signifier of Obama's desire for bipartisan cooperation," says Julie Gerstein in New York. Yet even if the pols' intentions were benevolent, some commenters took issue, albeit facetiously. "John Boehner's tie is undermining the sacred institution of marriage," said Matthew Yglesias via Twitter.
5. A return to high school
The unusual seating plan — Democrats and Republicans were intermingled, rather than divided along strict party lines — and the resulting hubbub led many to draw comparisons to high school. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), who sat with "date" Nancy Pelosi, was a fan, saying "it's taken on kind of a high school kind of flavor here and I think its kind of cute." Bartlett was lucky to snag Pelosi as his date; House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) asked her to sit with him, but was too late. That's because Cantor "forgot a lesson from high school," says Julia Edwards at National Journal. "The popular girls always get asked first."
The president may have talked jobs and health care, but one thing really stuck with Americans: salmon. According to an NPR survey, "salmon" — the government regulation of which was the subject of an Obama joke — was the most memorable word of a night the Reuters blog has called "salmon 'chanted evening."