The Sound of One Wing Flapping
|by CW FISHER (c) 2004
Tonight George W. Bush gave his third State of the Union address. He was confident and commanding, and he brought a new twinkle, sort of a wink that he kept shooting at somebody in the front row. I'd like to see a short montage of these twinks. There must have been twenty of them.
His crew looked beat to crap. Colin Powell was ashen; Condi Rice in total lockdown; Tom Ridge’s face has gotten significantly smaller. Ashcroft was pink, puffy, awestruck and teary, like he was thinking about eagles again. Rumsfeld should have just come in a hospital gown.
Making his special once a year appearance just over the president’s right shoulder was VP Dick Cheney, great white wall of seething intelligence whose soul remains unrested until returned again to hiding.
The backup props looked equally doleful. Three soldiers representing the armed forces barely applauded, undazzled; one of them actually yawned and another rolled her eyes. Even the military brass were slow to rise.
But the award for Most Unenthusiastic goes to the Democrats, who, time after time, remained silent and seated. Here was the graphic we were looking for. What better illustratration of the state of the union than one side clapping and one side not? I don’t remember any other SOU address where there was such a strong and consistent demonstration of resistance. At one point you could hear boos.
The wide shot showed the Republican majority spilling into the left chamber, rendering the Democrats essentially moot. In other words, many of the programs he's selling are likely to be passed. Maybe that’s what George is twinkling about. Makes me yearn for gridlock.
While the State of the Union address is not a political speech--it's a primary responsibility of the president--but it's also the last such speech before the election. So it’s an enormous political speech.
George Bush talked about two things: the War on Terror, and what the Congress needs to do to reelect him, in terms of giveaways, promotions, gimmicks and so forth—like that No Child Left Behind Thing that we’re all so proud of.
President Bush got solemn as he pictured that one poor kid that falls behind in his math, but, somehow, we’re there for that child, and that child will learn his math, through testing and retesting and reretesting, because if that child doesn't make it, the school doesn't either. There are economic penalties for failure and these will be reflected in local taxes. Nobody wants to leave a child behind. As a sentiment, it's irresistable. But the NCLB Act has nothing to do with children or learning. It has to do with havoc which is currenting wreaking its way through every school in America. Ask your local schools what they think.
Regarding the War on Terror, we have beaten back the Taliban, restored peace and harmony in Afghanistan, built schools, blew town. In Iraq, we found Saddam Hussein in a hole! We have occupied a sovereign state and overthrown their leader; we have earned the enmity of the majority of nations, but won the full support of a constellation of small, shuddering client states.
Somehow the morass in Iraq has become the “War on Terror.” Yet the war on terror began with a different mission entirely: find the man who masterminded and sponsored the events of Sept. 11. Today, two years later, long forgotten, a man sits on the floor of a cave, wondering if he’ll ever be found. His name is Osama bin Laden.
Osama is so deep in hiding he didn’t even make it into the speech!
Osama bin Laden is slipping away, not just from the military and CIA, but slipping away from the national psyche. Meanwhile Bush has planted his priorities on reelection, cynically throwing rubber chickens into our pots—as if 9/11 were some municipal problem! Come on! This isn’t the anthrax investigation, this is serious! This is a national security issue! Will you pay attention please?
Best image of the night: Ted Kennedy slowly shaking his head in over-my-dead-body defiance. This fight isn’t over. In fact, this fight is going to get good.