In the gamut of Presidential oratory, John F. Kennedy’s “Ask Not” speech still owns a comfortable spot at one end of the spectrum. After the 2008 State Of The Union, we have a new effort on the other end with George Bush’s “Ask….Nahhh” entry.
In his last term at junior college, while his grades may be abysmal, his instructors are tired of his lazy, dunderheaded, chimpanzee mien darkening their classrooms and he’s still going to graduate. As January winds into February, though, he was still facing one last onerous assignment before he can coast to his General Studies degree and go off to drink beer for the rest of the summer and maybe worry about what he’s going to do with the rest of his life: his seventh State Of The Union Address.
While the rest of us were getting ready for bed Sunday night, George Bush was in his sweats and two days of stubble at his computer on his sixth hour of surfing “Hot or Not?” and looking for fresh titties on Facebook, toggling back every few minutes to that blank Microsoft Word screen, before he finally muttered “fuck it” and pulled up the folder of his best C papers from the last three semesters, cut-and-pasted, tossed in one or two topical references, and wrapped it all up in time to catch “Sports Center”.
With every State Of The Union, there were the obligatory applause interruptions and standing ovations–some partisan, some universally patriotic–and even the occasional exuberant but quickly-stifled burst of applause, making one wonder who missed or misinterpreted what cue. Coming especially after Barack Obama’s Saturday night victory speech in South Carolina and Ted Kennedy’s endorsement of Obama earlier in the day, this was an event completely bereft of passion. It was a nation’s legislative and executive apparatus going through the motions; a dog-and-pony show that everyone just wanted to have over with. It was a speech that the already-gone-to-Crawford Bush didn’t want to be giving, and one that a been-there, heard-that Democratic members of Congress didn’t care to waste time hearing, and the Republican members didn’t want to embrace too warmly lest Bush and Cheney’s winter-temperature approval ratings rub off on them and their chances for re-election.
Sitting behind the President next to a glowering Dick Cheney (who looked like he wished he could have half the members of the chamber murdered), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had the jaded, tired look of the mother whose ne’er’ do well middle-aged son needed to borrow $500 one last time and he’d never make another bit again as long as he lived, honest.
The camera shots are always telling during the SOTU. The cynical winner tonight was during the President’s call for affordable health care and a cut to a steam-coming-off-her-ears Hillary whose scowling visage seemed to be saying, “For the last time, can we stop talking about fucking 1994 already??? I get it, okay???”
There’s usually an effort to spotlight the prominent civilian guests representing the best and brightest rank-and-file Americans who are living examples of the good that President’s latest initiatives are doing for the country. That’s a tough order to fill this time around, and the best I expected them to come up with was Dave Parnell, a cable installer from Manassas, Virginia, who is going his $300 economic stimulus check to buy naked lady mud flaps for his 1998 Ford F150.
One of the most exciting initiatives Bush proposed was his “Pell Grants for Kids”. Though our elementary schools mostly exist to provide employment for custodians and lunch servers, and as day warehouses for the children of rabble who would otherwise be hanging out at home watching Montel and Jerry Springer with their morbidly-obese, chain-smoking, half-drunk-by-11:00 AM parents, there’s no reason we can’t throw a bone to a few and let them go to school with the kids with good teeth and a clean, orderly lineage.
The only real surprise tonight–and maybe I shouldn’t be surprised; a chuckling Charlie Rangle certainly wasn’t–is that after seven years, in any talk about power, the President still can’t help but pronounce it “nucular”.
Come the end, though, everyone was relieved, including the President, and the whole lot of them looked like they were ready to head off for many cocktails, as was the rest of the country.