Tuesday’s annual installment of the State of the Union isn’t just a chance for President Donald Trump to make his case to the country about what he wants the future to look like. It’s also a chance for the president and members of Congress to symbolize what they really care about with the absolute least amount of effort possible: who they bring as a guest to the State of the Union.
There have been some very good invites so far, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s invitation to Ana Maria Archila, a woman who confronted Sen. Jeff Flake in an elevator last year during the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process. In addition, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey is inviting Victorina Morales, an undocumented former Trump golf club worker who blew the whistle on exploitation and hypocrisy at Trump properties. The Trumps, meanwhile, are inviting a kid who’s getting relentlessly roasted at school for sharing a last name with the president. (As someone whose name is unbearably close to “Paul Blart,” I feel you, buddy.)
Because people like Steve King also get to have a guest, however, there have been some extremely bad, horribly bleak, and all-around bewildering invites to this thing. Here are some of the worst:
Border Patrol guys
According to NPR, a pair of members from Texas have invited some of the highest-ranking officials in the Border Patrol. Rep. Chip Roy is inviting Brandon Judd, the president of the National Border Patrol Council union and a staunch supporter of Trump and his dumb fucking wall.
Meanwhile, Sen. John Cornyn is inviting the Border Patrol’s sector chief for the Rio Grande Valley, Manny Padilla. A CBP press release from August boasted that the Rio Grande Valley sector “continues to lead the nation in illegal alien apprehensions.” What it doesn’t mention is that the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general found in October that the Rio Grande Valley sector held at least 564 migrant kids in holding cells for over 24 hours, the legal limit imposed by the courts.
Good news everyone: Steve King isn’t racist anymore, as he’s bringing one-half of the Trump-supporting sister duo Diamond and Silk to the State of the Union. Because he could only bring one, he hilariously made them do a coin toss for the honor of sitting next to Congress’ unofficial ambassador to European fascist parties. Diamond won.
I can’t think of a better way to show how much of a Law Respecter you are than bringing someone who repeatedly perjured herself while giving testimony to Congress to the State of the Union.
Jim Tressel (???)
Former Ohio State wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez was elected to Congress as a Republican last year in Ohio, so he decided to bring his old football coach. According to the Columbus Post-Dispatch, Tressel encouraged Gonzalez to run.
Honestly, it could be worse. But considering Tressel made over $20 million at Ohio State over the course of his career while coaching players who effectively worked for free, it could’ve been better, too.
Friends from the other side of the aisle
U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, a freshman Democrat best known for trying to bring a six-pack onto the House floor, is bringing the Republican mayor of Folly Beach, SC, Tim Goodwin, to the State of the Union. Goodwin endorsed Cunningham last year over Republican Katie Arrington, and cited Cunningham’s opposition to offshore drilling as one reason why he likes him.
Likewise, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman is bringing Youngstown, OH, Mayor Tito Brown to the State of the Union. “I’m honored to invite my friend Mayor Brown to join me for the State of the Union address,” Portman said in a statement. “I’m proud of the work Mayor Brown has done for the community of Youngstown and continue to be impressed with his leadership that is moving this city forward.”
Inviting elected officials from the other party to the State of the Union to show how bipartisan you are is some extremely performative bullshit. Invite a worker or something. Or maybe don’t. Who wants to actually go to this thing, anyway?
Most Exploitative Invitation: Grieving Families
This is in a category of its own, because it goes without saying that losing a loved one—especially a child—is the most painful emotional experience imaginable. But these families aren’t guests of honor because of their losses; they’ve been invited because the most craven nativists at the highest level of American politics want to exploit their trauma in order to further a far-right immigration agenda.
Trump has invited the grieving family of a Nevada couple allegedly murdered in their home by an undocumented man last month. The man, 19-year old Wilbur Martinez-Guzman of El Salvador, has reportedly admitted his role in the killings.
Taking a page out of the president’s book, Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee has invited the parents of a 22-year old man killed in a car accident in December to the State of the Union. The other driver was an undocumented immigrant.
Correction, 2/6/2018, 2:07 p.m. ET: A previous version of this article stated that Tressel made over $20 million “in public money” during his time as Ohio State’s football coach. As a reader pointed out, although Ohio State is a public university, it funds its athletic department without using public funds.