President Obama will have a visual aid when he argues for economic equality in his State of the Union address: Warren Buffett's secretary, Debbie Bosanek, who was made famous by her billionaire boss for paying a higher tax rate than he does. The billionaire investor frequently uses the apparent disparity to illustrate how the American tax system is skewed toward the wealthy few.
Bosanek's presence, first announced by White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer in a Tuesday morning tweet, continues a 30-year tradition of presidents inviting guests in order to humanize an argument or to score points in recognizing ordinary Americans.
President Reagan was the first to do so when, in 1982, he asked Lenny Skutnik, who was seated next to Reagan's wife, Nancy, to take a bow for rescuing a flight attendant from an Air Florida jet that crashed into the icy Potomac, according to a 1994 issue of National Journal. "Don't let anyone tell you that America's best days are behind her," the president said.
Aram Bakshian Jr., a former Reagan speechwriter, claimed in that NJ issue to have invented the "hero-in-the-balcony device," his proudest achievement, he said at the time.