I don't usually drink martinis. But I had two, preparing for the State of the Union Address last night. Part of my stimulus package for viewing Bush State of the Unions, my seventh, a personal record.
I had an additional responsibility in watching this year's SOTU, as State of the Union aficionados call it. I was the designated viewer. My wife walked out of the room as soon as the president appeared on the screen. Friends also told me they had no stomach for it. And it went further than my circle. People reportedly were popping in Seinfeld episode CDs across the nation. And the TV Nation folks were really pissed because their best shows were being pre-empted. Particularly furious were Two and a Half Men fans at CBS.
But I was in a good frame of mind for the evening's entertainment. I strongly recommend a Bombay gin with just a whisper of Martini & Rossi Extra Dry Vermouth infusion to make SOU's go down more smoothly.
As usual, I enjoyed the Keith and Chris pre-game show on MSNBC, which I've been told is "the best place for politics."
As usual, I kept alert by counting the applause lines. Gave up last night at 87. Our elected representatives and top officials of the greatest nation in the world were acting like unruly high school kids at a basketball game. The only things missing from their approbation were the air horns. The wild cheers were being orchestrated, I was sure, by that smirking vice president sitting behind the president, pushing a button under the rostrum, making half the audience jump up like puppets on strings, while the other half stayed put.
Before I knew it 53 minutes later it was over.
Even sedated, I recognized a lot of themes from previous SOTUs.
The message reminded me of Schubert's Eighth Symphony ("The Unfinished"), featuring edited highlights from Bush administration initiatives that somehow never got done. Keith Olbermann called it "a 'best of' album," "oldies but not goodies."
I began to think what would have been a memorable SOU if the president in his farewell address to the nation told the truth for a change.
"My fellow Americans, Countrymen, the state of the nation," I could hear him beginning, "stinks."
"It's a mess. Far worse than any of the candidates asking for change have had the courage to let on. We are in deep doo-doo right now.
"Your economists are saying, ' We are in a period of uncertainty. They keep saying we might be having a 'correction.' Well, falling off a cliff is not a correction.
"By 'correction,' they mean we are on the brink of economic disaster. We are in the midst of the worse banking crisis since 1931. The stock market is falling apart. When all the bankruptcies and foreclosed houses come on the markets, it will be like Herbert Hoover singing 'Happy Days Are here Again.'
"The candidates, the media, nobody seems to get it. We're going to go into a major depression because of the excesses of the past seven years. All of this wild-spending we Republicans have done since I took office as a fiscal conservative, a tight-fisted, hard-line budget man, has undone us.
"Yes, we made a few little mistakes. I thought Iraq would cost us two trillion, but it's up to three trillion -- and counting.
"With low interest rates, we encouraged the middle class to go out and enjoy a spending spree, creating a housing boom and buying big screen TV's, new cars, and not pay attention to the war.
"Now that the boom is over we have to have a bust because busts always follow booms. That's part of the business cycle that even I learned about in Econ 101 at Yale, without attending classes.
"And now we are in the bust cycle. Politicians don't want to talk about it. Even the guys on CNBC don't want to mention it in passing.
"My stimulus package is a joke. What is giving our citizens a few hundred shaky American dollars going to do? So all of you who haven't got one can go out and buy HD sets? And boost the Chinese economy? Look, they need us. Who else is going to buy all the stuff they are making -- Third World nations? They'd have a recession over there. We don't want that, do we?
"Instead of handing out stimulus checks, we'd be better off if we used the money to build new factories in this country. And then we should go after the corporate terrorists who are destroying this country by moving factories and jobs from our shores. Most of them are my fellow Republicans, but I'd lock them all up in Allenwood as enemies of our country.
"All the candidates today are talking about 'change.' That's right. What we'll get is guys on the street corner asking for change.
"My fellow Americans, let the Democrats clean up the mess. I'm out of here."
"And I can assure you I'm not worried about my legacy, either. Look at how your country's media-venerated Reagan and that dunce Gerald Ford, worse two presidents we've had, not including my father.
"By the time my rich friends in the media get through telling the folks how great I really was, they will be putting my face up on Mt. Rushmore.
"So don't worry about me, podners. Come down to see me at the ranch in Crawfordsville, and we'll talk about how we let the good times roll.
"Good night and good luck. Y'all will need it."