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At State of the Union, an Attempt at Civility

Some will sit with their opposites; will it change anything?

AARP has long urged greater cooperation, including its Divided We Fail campaign in 2009.

Former Rep. Lee Hamilton (R-Ind.), in a radio interview with AARP in 2006, called for members of Congress to put loyalty to the Constitution first, not loyalty to party. "If you are a member of Congress, you take an oath of office to support and defend the Constitution, not to support and defend the president, not even your constituency or your largest campaign contributor," said Hamilton, long a crusader for congressional comity. He also called for a "loyalty and willingness to make the institution work."

Reeder, in his op-edin the AARP Bulletin, cited the old saw attributed to Rufus E. Miles Jr., a federal official under presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson: "Where you stand depends on where you sit." Reeder called for members to sit alphabetically, primary-school style, and periodically rotate the seating.

"The sobering effect of assigned seating — a tool well used by savvy schoolmasters throughout the world — would render the embarrassing Capitol Hill circus of cheering, jeering, sulking and sidebar-whispering a relic of the past," Reeder wrote.

Maybe for one night.

Elaine S. Povich is a veteran Washington-based congressional correspondent.

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