Maybe all State of the Union Addresses sound like Inauguration speeches. I wouldn’t know. Last night, I did something I’ve never done before: I sat through an entire televised broadcast of a State of the Union. For this, I have George W. Bush to thank. That, and my pesky sense of fair play that proves, at my age, to be little more than a monumental annoyance. Mr. Bush inspires me to such heights of frustration, anger, and despair, that I thought it only fair to actually tune in to what he had to say for himself at the beginning of his sixth (oh my god…sixth???? ) year in office. Or maybe I was just looking for more fuel for the fire of rage this administration has lit in me.
I can’t figure out why I was disappointed. It’s not as if Mr. Bush didn’t come out of the gate waving the American flag that he snatched from the twin towers, and peddling the same "America is great, support our troops" rhetoric that he’s paraded in front of partisan audiences since the 2004 presidential campaign. To my surprise, he did not indulge in any highly divisive right vs left rhetoric. I suppose he leaves that to the likes of Karl Rove and the GOP Congressional leaders. The only time he even brushed up against the concept of partisan politics, it was to connect that condition to any Bush Administration action or program that the entire country had not opened wide and gulped down without a whimper. Like his Social Security plan. At the mention of which, the Democratic side of the aisle indulged in a little back-thumping and high-fiving of their own. Inappropriate perhaps. But it was the highlight of the hour, for me…
Once again, Mr. Bush took 9/11 in one hand, and the Iraq War in the other, mashed them together like two clumps of modeling clay and presented them to the audience as one entity. To distract viewers from the fact that those two issues had never been and were never going to be a single ball of wax, Mr. Bush showcased the family of a fallen soldier, invited to the sit in the gallery and display their sad but brave faces to the cameras (while administration henchmen made sure that Cindy Sheehan and her unpatriotic tee shirt were duly arrested and whisked out of eyeshot of any wayward photojournalist...) He gambled that our eyes would fill with honorable, patriotic tears and cloud our vision once again; that vision which is just beginning to clear of the dust from ground zero. Proving that he will simply take a slightly different path to the same well of fear, revenge, and blind nationalism from which he has been ladling since September 11, 2001. But this was not unexpected…and I didn’t find myself yelling at the television anywhere near as often as I thought I would be. Except when the Republican legislators' seats seemed to eject them every time the President paused to cue their loyal adulation...I just had to scream, "Oh, sit down and let him get it over with!"
Following the pathetic tear-jerker, Mr. Bush went on to enumerate the list of important sounding but barely fleshed-out legislation that his administration would like rubber stamped by his sycophantic, power drunk GOP Congress. Studies, commissions, programs, created from the same mold as the great, lofty, unfunded, frustrating-as-hell "No Child Left Behind Act." Wow. I can’t wait. As a real bonus, we were treated to a couple of minutes of Mr. Bush citing statistics on crime, abortion, teen pregnancy, AIDS…statistics collected and designed to show what a phenomenal job the Bush Administration has done over the years. I don’t know. Every one of Mr. Bush’s speeches, toiled over by the best and the brightest of GOP spin-doctors, has been so chocked full of outright lies that I wouldn’t trust the President to tell me the sky was blue. So pardon me if I was not impressed by his statistics.
In the end, I had a feeling that I had spent an hour in "Neverland." That Mr. Bush was valiantly trying to sweep the damage of the rocky first year of his "mandated" second administration--miserable war news, FEMA flubs, allegations of corruption, erosion of his administration’s web of lies, runaway energy prices, and a health care crisis of heretofore unrivaled magnitude--under the carpet and call for a "do-over." It appears his reasoning was that, if he didn’t address any of those issues, or possible remedies for any of those failures, then they never happened. I’ve got news for you, Mr. Bush: The elephantine mass of your regime’s lies and failures is getting way too big to hide behind your back while you smirk and joke, or put on your serious face and point to the bereaved family of a valiant fallen soldier. To an increasing degree, we’re not buying it anymore, Mr. President.
In the circus atmoshpere of anticipation leading up to the speech, created by our intrepid hype-crazed media, I heard pundit after pundit describe how the sixth year of a two-term president’s run is historically fraught with problems…from Nixon’s Watergate to Clinton’s Monica-gate. As a nation, with respect to the G.W. Bush Administration, we can only cross our fingers--and work like hell--for that trend to continue.