Talk about your presidential dilemmas: Just as George Bush is preparing to offer up his 2006 State of the Union speech, America has suddenly developed a big time crush on the truth. And not just emotional truth or essential truth or even truthiness -- but actual, empirical, cut-the-crap truth.
What's a president to do?
It would be tremendous if the president would seize the moment and take this opportunity to finally come clean with the American people on the actual state of the union. But I'm not planning on holding my breath.
Here's what we know about the speech so far. After striking out with his swing-for-the-fences 2005 initiatives (overhauling Social Security, reforming tax policy and immigration law), the president is going to be aiming for a series of singles and doubles (and will be more than happy to get a base on balls). He'll keep playing the national security card but will also trot out a laundry list of proposals on domestic concerns like education, health care, energy, and the economy.
The speech has been running 36 minutes -- without applause (which means once Denny Hastert, the SOTU equivalent of a TV "Applause" sign, gets through working his portly magic, we should be looking at about an hour. Bush's 2005 speech was interrupted by "spontaneous" applause 66 times and given 44 standing ovations).
According to White House counselor Dan Bartlett, the president's address will be an optimistic "leadership speech." In other words, more of the same old same old -- a prime-time attempt at convincing the American people that things are going great. Truth be damned.