The state of the state of the union is inert. A newly humbled and politically emasculated president killed
an hour of network TV time with some finely tuned lameduckery. The stock closeup of W. at the podium flanked by Cheney on one side and Pelosi on the other spoke volumes about how much has changed in the last 11 weeks. Cheney looked at least as uncomfortable as Hillary Clinton, who had the misfortune to be seated just behind Barack Obama in those crowd cutaway shots. (Someone's head will roll for that.) Bush seemed rhetorically subdued: whether by design or by default, the bluster meter wasn't as pinned as it has been in his six previous SOTUs.
Bush nonetheless soldiers on as a master of the alternative universe that floats around inside his head and those of his sycophantic advisers. How else to explain the ability—make that temerity—to stand up in front of an audience after four years of consummate one-party control over every branch of government and announce that now
it's time to balance the budget, unmask earmarks, reduce fuel consumption, expand health insurance, fix medicaid, and save social security. Bush's lengthy riff on war and terror and Iraq felt more soporific than spirited—a tired encore phoned in by an act that's been on the road way too long.
Here's the SOTU we could have heard:
Folks, we've been in total control for several years now, and in that time we've done virtually nothing to improve health care, social security, education, or the environment. We've spent hundreds of billion dollars in overseas military adventures that have killed or wounded tens of thousands of people and tanked our global diplomatic prestige. We've turned science into an enemy and pandered to bigots and religious zealouts on everything from stem cells to gay rights. For all of this we've been rewarded with a stunning midterm election defeat and polls showing that two out of every three of you think we're somewhere between feckless and reckless. The state of the union may be okey dokey, but the state of the executive branch is vacant.
Now that would be a Tivo-worthy speech.