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Louis Untermeyer


The Occasional Muse
My humble opinion on current events

January 29, 2003

Random muses on SOTU 

For the first time since I started watching the State of the Union (SOTU) speech, I took some notes. So my thoughts and impressions are somewhat organized, for what they're worth.

Began watching a few minutes before the speech to catch the pre-game on CNN. Judy Woodruff, Aaron Brown, Wolf Blitzer, and other talking heads were pontificating on what President Dubya was going to say. Jeff Greenfield said that Dubya wants to talk about the economy and other domestic issues, but Iraq may drown all that out. It was a classic example of a self-fulfilling prophecy: Since the media decides what it wants to talk about, it's up to them if Dubya's economic talk gets ignored. Sure enough, after the speech, Greenfield was saying the same thing, thus fulfilling his own prophecy and proving himself right. 

Anyway, so CNN is showing all the pomp and nonsense that goes on at these things, with all these congressmen and cabinet secretaries conversing and pretending to like each other. CNN mentioned that this year, it was Attorney General John Ashcroft's turn to stay away from the building, in case some wack job blew up the Capitol. With at least one cabinet secretary safely away, the presidential succession is ensured.

I couldn't help but think what the ACLU's take on this was. They must have been praying (if anyone at the ACLU does that) for extra tight security, because one well-placed bomb would produced President John Ashcroft, which is the ACLU's worst nightmare.

So now President Dubya is making his way down the aisle, glad-handing all the esteemed congresspeople, and Woodruff mentions that Dubya looks more mature and confident tonight, as opposed to last year when he was tentative and uncertain. Does anyone know what the heck she is talking about?

(Brief aside: I'll always remember what Judy Woodruff said after Dubya's acceptance speech at the 2000 Republican convention. Lee Greenwood had come on stage and started to sing "God Bless the USA," which Woodruff called "that song that Republicans love." I guess all you non-Republicans out there don't like that song, you commie swine.)

So Dubya starts his speech, after the eternal applause and standing ovation, and is interrupted three seconds in by more applause. Actually, it wasn't that bad, it just seemed like it. All the applause and standing ovations (40 applause interruptions and and 39 standing ovations, according to my own highly unscientific and unreliable count) broke up the speech into a ragged and stop-and-go recitation. Just once, I'd love to see a president get up there and say, "Folks, I'm bound by the Constitution to report to the Congress on a regular schedule. That has morphed into the State of the Union, a speech which too often is measured by standing ovations and degenerates into a laundry list of wonderful new proposals that don't stand a snowball's chance of passing the Congress. So, I don't care about applause or standing ovations, or any of that other pap. I'm here to talk about America, so let's get to it." And the president proceeds to give a substantive, serious, and thorough examination of the state of our union. Wouldn't that be grand?

Anyway, so Dubya is rattling while CNN is panning the crowd. There's Tom Daschle, looking angry, cynical, and depressed. There's Nancy Pelosi, laughing and shaking her head as Dubya talks about his tax cuts. Isn't that so like liberals, who find the idea of you keeping more of your own money humorous? There's Tom Delay, looking positively stoked. There's John McCain, standing and adjusting his pants (did you catch that?). There's old Kennedy, snoozing away. There's a glowering John Edwards, wealthy trial lawyer, no doubt incensed when Dubya mentions medical malpractice reform. There's Hillary, who left dead bodies behind for that seat behind the Joint Chiefs, standing and applauding when Dubya says we're winning the war on terrorism, though she said not too long ago that Dubya's not doing enough. As if her husband could extract himself from Monica long enough to accept the Sudan's offer of Osama bin Laden.

As for the actual content of the speech, it was okay. Lots of big-government spending (compassionate conservatism can be expensive). Some tiny tax cuts that are better than nothing, though not by much. The whole domestic side was nothing more than the previously mentioned laundry list. The AIDS in Africa thing was effective, though he should have mentioned how Uganda was dramatically cutting its AIDS rate by stressing abstinence. The foreign policy part was much better. Dubya started showing some passion, and the best lines all came from here. I hope the vaunted international community received the message when Dubya announced that the "course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others." I hope tyrants got the message that "free people will set the course of history." I wonder what the American people thought when Republicans stood and applauded Dubya's ballistic missile defense program and Democrats sat on their hands. That's right, Dems think that protecting America from missiles is a bad idea. Yet they're trying to convince voters they're better on homeland defense. I'm glad Dubya mentioned Iran, which is this close to a real revolution. The ruling mullahs are extremely unpopular, and more and more Iranians are rising up against them.

The Democratic response by Gary Locke (who?) was agonizingly lame and little more than a polished pleading for federal bailouts to the states who spent every spare dime they could scrounge during the go-go 90s and are now paying the piper (how's that sentence for gallimaufry of mixed-up metaphors?). Message to Mr. Locke: we don't care about your grandfather. Sorry.

Until next time, folks.

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