On television at least, the mise en scène of the State of the Union was far easier on the eyes with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sitting behind the President, instead of the glowering visage of the corpulent Denny Hastert. (Unfortunately, we still had to endure Dick Cheney's twisted sneer.)
Bush's P.R. people love to turn up the volume of "Hail to the Chief" to deafening levels. Yet no amount of jingoistic ritual can rescue this president from the damning judgment of a war-weary citizenry.
In his sixth State of the Union address, Bush shot to new heights what C. Wright Mills called "crackpot realism." Purveyors of "crackpot realism" draw seemingly logical, even commonsensical conclusions based on fallacious and delusional premises.
In Bush's case, he draws absurd conclusions based on no "premises" at all.
"To win the war on terror we must take the fight to the enemy."
This is a ghoulish line for Bush to be taking the day after 88 innocent Iraqis were blown to bits in a Baghdad market.
And two days ago, Iraqi insurgents wearing American uniforms and driving in seven or eight new GMC sport utility vehicles, identical to those that American personnel use, passed through a half dozen checkpoints on their way to Karbala. There they sped up to the U.S. military headquarters, killed five American soldiers and kidnapped two. The abandoned trucks were discovered later in little towns outside of Karbala.
The other day, the body of a 75-year-old man was found wrapped in a rug after being thrown from a five-story building, someone had taken a power drill to the back of his head, which is a common tool of "revenge" in Iraq these days.
American troops are going to "clear and secure neighborhoods" in Baghdad, and will be "chasing down the terrorists and insurgents." Who are they going to be "clearing" and who are the going to be "holding?"
This is definitive "crackpot realism."
The next time Bush addresses the nation in prime time it might be to announce he has just ordered the bombing of Iran. And he will have a litany of "realistic" rationales for leading the nation down this ruinous course, the consequences of which the world will be saddled with for years to come.
Turning the Persian Gulf region into a smoldering wasteland is the "rational" thing to do, he'll assure us, because not to do so would mean the mullahs eventually getting an atomic bomb, or sponsoring terrorism, or undermining our great cause in Iraq. And tearing apart Iran's infrastructure is the only "realistic" choice because it will make all of these scary things magically go away. (Just as overthrowing Saddam Hussein reduced the threat of terrorism in the world.) Crackpot realism, like the belief in Armageddon, is magical thinking. It's fine when a four-year-old does it; no one is likely to get hurt. But when the President of the United States does it -- all of our asses are up for grabs.