Aisle Hog (noun): A person who,at the annual State of the Union address, sits as close as possible to the president’s walkway and snatches a 5-second brush with the POTUS himself, often waiting ten hours or more for the chance.
In 2011 Salon published its ranking of the top five Congressional aisle hogs, diving into C-Span’s video archive of the last 10 State of the Unions and immortalizing the results in this clip. At the time, the elite seat snatchers were: Dale Kildee (D-Mich.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), Eliot Engel (D-NY), and Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-11). Closely following–though Salon acknowledged that identifying aisle hogs is an inexact science- were Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Al Green (D-Texas) and Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio).
The SOTU is a special opportunity for low-ranking legislators to grab a moment with the president, with the bonus prize of being seen on national television. Top aisle hog Engel told The Washington Post that he used his moment with former President George W. Bush to encourage him to stand by Israel; Kildee believed the moment helped raise his profile with constituents.
Constituents who support the president, yes. Those of the opposing party, probably not so much. Shmidt, featured on the runner-up list, lost her primary to fellow Republican Brad Wenstrup, who highlighted her moment with Obama in his campaign advertisements.
“There’s someone kissing the president, who’s that?” asks a phony radio host.
“Looks like Congresswoman Jean Schmidt!”
“Is she a Democrat? She seems very close with the president.”
Shmidt is not the only aisle hog to be out of the running for this year’s seats. Kucinich lost his seat, Kildee retired and Jackson resigned due to fraud allegations. Who will be the new top hogs?
It’s not a universal ambition. Some members of Congress say they simply don’t have the time (or don’t want to spend the time) to wait ten to 12 hours for the hot seats. Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) has stated, “I don’t have eight hours to waste. If you are doing this job well, every minute should be spent going to briefings, researching, and figuring out how to move ahead.” Meanwhile, Majority Whip Rep. Kevin Mcarthy (R- Calif.) announced to those looking to cheat the long wait that hats and placards won’t cut it as seat-savers.
We’ll see tonight who spent the hours bidding their time in line with Words with Friends and cookies (a perk reported by Kildee.) We at home can’t share the success felt by the squatters, but at least we can enjoy the president’s remarks with the casualness and comforts of home. A drink every time John Boehner shows visible discomfort, anyone?