This week, Americans got to watch not one, but two, truly remarkable feats of political oratory. The first was, of course, Howard Dean’s concession speech after the Iowa caucuses on Monday. After being trounced by the Senators John (Kerry and Edwards), the then-leading Democratic candidate went a bit, well, bonkers.
After a voluble and highly-detailed description of his upcoming travel itinerary, the former governor of peaceful and pastoral Vermont let out a shrill shriek of forced celebration tinged with the sadness of his defeat. Part Bobby Knight, part Wicked Witch of the West, “the squeal heard round the world” devastated his supporters, terrified his opponents, and broke the heart of a White House drooling to face him in November. Dean the Frontrunner was shouted off the stage by Dean the Basket Case.
The second act of presidential theater came the very next night, when George W. Bush gave his fourth State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress. My how time flies when the world is being destroyed.
Delivered with the slurred speech and silly, smarmy smirks that characterize the leader of the free world, the speech was less “remarkable” than it was spectacularly boring. And long. And stupid. Even for him. Clouded faulty logic in anodyne platitudes, Bush kicked off his campaign with a whimper just a night after Dean killed his with a bang (or, more precisely, a shriek).
The painful glibness of the SOTU made it tough to sit through unless you were playing a drinking game. In case you couldn’t make it, here are my highlights and humdingers:
Word of the Night: “Shadow”: “We refuse to live in the shadow of this ultimate danger.” “Men who ran away from our troops in battle are now dispersed and attack from the shadows.” “My temporary worker program will … [bring] millions of hardworking men and women out from the shadows of American life.” What’s the big deal with shadows? Get off it, Bush, we get the point — you’re one shady dude.
Most Hypocritical Juxtaposition: (on the Iraq war) “I believe that God has planted in every human heart the desire to live in freedom,” and (on gay marriage) “Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage.” In other words, the right to marry — which the Supreme Court of the United States has recognized as a fundamental freedom under the Fourteenth Amendment — is not among those freedoms bestowed upon us by the Almighty. Or did God just skip over homosexuals when he passed around that particular freedom?
Biggest Pander to a Republican Constituency: “We will double federal funding for abstinence programs, so schools can teach this fact of life: Abstinence for young people is the only certain way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases.” Here’s another fact of life, you moralistic doofus: Boys and girls get it on, even God-fearing ones. Abstinence-only education, like a busted diaphragm, will always let a few eager ones slip through the cracks. In both cases, the answer is condoms, not prayers.
Biggest Pander to a Democratic Constituency: Picking up Democratic Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.’s young daughter — corn rows, plaid skirt, velvet top and all (is George Bush John Wayne or John Brown?).
Best Use of Botox: Hillary Clinton
Worst Use of Botox: Nancy Pelosi
Most in Need of Botox: Ted Kennedy
Scariest Moment: Dick Cheney dying
Funniest Moment: Charlie Rangel sleeping (who can blame the guy?)
Biggest BS Line: (On the weapons of mass destruction) “Already the Kay Report identified dozens of weapons-of-mass-destruction-related program activities.” Sort of like the British government “learned” about the enriched uranium Saddam tried to buy from Niger. Only this time he prevaricates even more; Kay hasn’t identified weapons of mass destruction programs, nor even weapons-of-mass-destruction-related programs, but weapons-of-mass-destruction-related program activities. What’s next: “Kathy Lee Gifford has likely discovered that Saddam Hussein or someone who looked a lot like him did not decide to reject the possibility of avoid possessing or purchasing quasi-weapons-of-mass destruction-resembling variants or things.” Boo yah.
Best Use of a Rhetorical Device/Second Biggest BS Line: “No one can now doubt the word of America.” Obviously, “the word of America” is a metonymic substitution for the credibility of the President of the United States. It’s a nice turn of phrase, even if it’s laughingly false (see “Enriched Uranium and Niger, Lies About”).
Scariest Body Part Shown on Camera: Spencer Abraham’s Jowls
Second Scariest Body Part Shown on Camera: Ted Kennedy’s Jowls
Craziest Cameo: Tom Brady (he was a guest of the First Lady). I guess all those Democrats in New England will be rooting for the Panthers next weekend. I know I will.
Most Poignant Line: “For all Americans, the last three years have brought tests we did not ask for …” Namely, George, your presidency.