Is it just me, or did John Boehner look gassy and drunk during the State of the Union? There he sat, behind Obama, looking as if he had fallen asleep on the tanning bed, then spent the pre-speech hours eating bad food and drinking martinis.
It was a struggle to watch the speech. Last year I was gung ho, but after getting punch drunk on the one-two of the sour economy and the November elections, I just didn’t feel like there was much for Obama to say to me. I debated blowing it off. I was in the middle of streaming Monarch of the Glen when the appointed speechifying arrived. I decided to at least turn it on in the background, after all Big O is my guy. Then I decided to watch the first 15 minutes, then the next 15, then another. Eventually I watched the whole damn thing. So the obvious conclusion is I’m gonna say, “It was so wonderful I just couldn’t stop, blah blah blah…” I’m not going to say that. It never was a particularly satisfying speech (to me at any rate), and I only watched to the bitter end because I kept waiting for him to address the high unemployment, and bad economy. I mean really address them, not just bandy about platitudes.
There is nothing wrong, per se, with the speech – he is doing exactly what these modern times call for: basically a campaign speech – “We’re gonna do this”, “America is great”, “However, we’ve got to do better”;”The American people are asking us to…blah blah blah.” But as other pundits have pointed out elsewhere, these really aren’t technical speeches about the current state of the country. And for some reason that was what I really wanted this time around. Like the formulaic rock ballads of the 70s and 80s, SOTUSes have taken on a simple form: introduce a lofty (yet generic, and vague on details) goal, for example supporting small business, talk about how important it is to America, how awesome our innovators are, then stress the important supporting legislation you will propose in the coming year. Finally, laud the accomplishments of a special guest in the audience you’ve trucked in to be the shining example (Joe Blow from Pennsylvania, whose marvelous drill bits helped save the Chilean Miners). Rinse and repeat.
Well. Aren’t I just a sour puss. Maybe SOTUSes have always been that way, I’m not a historian.
I was also I bit embarrassed by how rah rah America it was. Don’t they know it is watched by the whole world? How about a little quiet dignity. Proud but more subtle.
So buying into the speech as it was (not as I wished it were), what sticks in my mind? (Besides Boehner’s bloated red glassy-eyed face?) Well, what most stuck out as very interesting, was his plan to contract the eleven executive departments into a smaller, leaner, cabinet, with fewer bureaus. I don’t remember his time table for this, but he will establish a commission to study the problem. He wants less redundancy across all the departments, and introduced the subject by complaining about how salmon are regulated by the Dept. of Agriculture while they are in our rivers, then by NOAA when they migrate to the ocean, and finally by someone else (he didn’t specify) when they are smoked. I dunno…does that seem that bad? It doesn’t bother me. I’m not against a more efficient government, with reduced redundancy, but salmon are a bad example, me thinks. I saw elsewhere a hilarious tag cloud formed out of the SOTUS words most memorable to NPR listeners. Front and center, in large type was the word “salmon.”
Another thing that stood out to me was all the talk about high speed rail. I think a lot of Americans desire a replacement for the can-do, morale-boosting, engineer-employing Space Race of the 1960s. Personally, I am leery of high speed rail. I need to be convinced that we really need it. Anybody who has ever been to Europe (including me) has become a fan of passenger trains – boy you can go anywhere for a buck! However, I’ve heard that our freight rails are the envy of Europe. Europe moves people, we move commerce. Is high speed rail going to come on line just when telecommuting takes off? Outside of California, and the Atlantic Northeast, what can high speed rail do that airplanes can’t? America is not Europe, it is not Japan. I’m not saying no, I’m just saying convince me.
The final thing that stuck in my mind, is that for all the talk (after last year’s SOTUS) that the Supremes don’t need to be there, and Big O was out of line for criticizing their approval of unlimited corporate campaign speech (and I agree with that criticism), there they were again. I didn’t expect the Supremes to be back in attendance. It was interesting watching them: They never stood up for any of the standing ovations except the applause for our armed forces; They seemed forced and unhappy about it, like, “We better stand up or people will think we hate soldiers.”
Speaking of last year, I did write a post, back then, and it was much more positive, and much much shorter. Funny how negativity breeds long-windedness. Last year’s post is linked here. So what stuck out to me last year? Well, the Supremes for one thing, and also nuclear energy – which got a passing mention again this year. But another was DADT, and Obama’s wish to repeal that in the coming year. Guess what? It happened. I am happy to end on that positive note. WTG Big O.