WASHINGTON – Maybe it’s just because they’ve seen him for eight years now, but President Clinton’s charisma could do little to keep some members of the Maryland delegation from yawning during his State of the Union address.
Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Baltimore, was among the first Democrats to yawn during Clinton’s 89-minute speech, according to The Hill, a newspaper that focuses on Congress. It also said that Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, “was seen resting his eyes several times” during the speech last month, Clinton’s last State of the Union.
“[Sarbanes] was squirming in his seat noticeably … and Hoyer was right in front,” said Mary Shaffrey, the author of the article.
Shaffrey said she wrote the story to give the State of the Union a different spin, and that she simply picked people she could recognize.
She said that Sarbanes “set the early pace” for yawning on the Democratic side of the aisle along with Delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton, D-D.C. But Norton “won out” by yawning half a dozen times during the speech, Shaffrey said.
Despite his yawns, Sarbanes characterized the speech as “powerful” in an interview immediately after the address. A Sarbanes spokesman noted last week it was a long speech after a long day of work.
“He did enjoy [the speech],” said Jesse Jacobs, the spokesman. “He was just the first one to yawn that happened to be noticed.”
Jim Gimpel, an associate professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland was not surprised that Sarbanes might have been a little sleepy.
“Sarbanes has always had a reputation as ‘the invisible man,'” Gimpel said. “Democrats in Maryland don’t have to fear electoral retribution so they can do things … like yawn at the State of the Union.”
Shaffrey said that Hoyer was in good company, noting that first lady Hillary Clinton also closed her eyes during the speech.
But Debra DeShong, a Hoyer spokeswoman said that Hoyer thoroughly enjoyed the speech.
“Everyone though [the speech] was a little long,” she said. “But it was one of his best speeches.”
Blair Lee, a political columnist with the Montgomery Journal, said neither Sarbanes nor Hoyer should be blamed for tiring out. He said Sarbanes has “been there so long he has a right to snooze. With Steny, he might be trying to change his image from a tax-and-spend liberal to a yawn-and-snooze liberal.”