If last night's State of the Union address left you feeling a little disappointed, you're not alone. President Bush seemed entirely out-of-sorts - even for him - offering up measurable enthusiasm only briefly as he gave voice to his position on illegal immigration, seeming to piteously decry the fact that no one from his own party supported it. Beyond that, there was a modicum of excitement over the economic stimulus package, and a limp recitation of policy proposals that cover the spectrum of his administration's failings (a moribund economy, the endless Iraq War), and too-little-too-late paeans to legacy boosting initiatives in the arena of environmentalism and Israeli-Palestinian peace accords.
But last night's address was more than just a disappointment where policy was concerned. It was also a failure as a piece of essential entertainment. Previous SOTU's were a modern wonder of obfuscatory oration. Big, sweeping lies! Massive, unsubstantiated claims! There was a time, friends, when Bush could come to the rostrum and deliver an address that made you feel the wind in your hair as the unmistakable downward trajectory of the Hellbound handbasket that stored our state was palpably revealed.
But last night's SOTU not only failed to deliver such epic moments of essential tragedy - it also didn't provide any of those wonderful Bush highlights: the sci-fi fantasia, the oil-addiction intervention, the Axis of Evil, the elevation of miniscule issues - like steroids - to areas of Major Concern. Our own Roy Sekoff went into last night's debate hoping against hope that he'd hear how all the switchgrass was doing. Remember the switchgrass? Until George W. Bush came along, I thought switchgrass was a psychotropic drug smoked by the fauns and Cambridge-educated beavers in Narnia when they weren't being attacked by Tilda Swinton. Bush taught us that switchgrass was actually the Nation's Great Hope to weaning ourselves off of foreign oil. And let's face it, in the context of most of Bush's contentions, it was among the saner.
For our founder and namesake, the truly great vintage of SOTU was 2006. Such heady times! "Freedom" was mentioned seven more times than it was last night. Weapons of "mass murder" took the spotlight from mere weapons of "mass destruction." Joe Lieberman finally succumbed to the President's musty pheromones, locking lips in a savagely passionate display of interfaith bipartisanship. Line item vetoes! The Iraq War miasma compared to the civil rights struggle! (And, yes, switchgrass. Also: woodchips!)
Indeed, 2006 was probably the Chateauneuf-du-Pape of Bush SOTU addresses--rustic, full-bodied, and with a distinct finish of pure, unrelenting insanity. But we'd be remiss if we didn't offer up the memories of other people who have spent the last eight years wondering if this was going to be the year God cut his losses by swallowing up the entire assemblage in a giant sinkhole. So we asked some of our friends and colleagues to share their own memories of bygone SOTU addresses. Here's what they had to say:
Chris Lehmann, senior editor, CQ Weekly:
"I do remember some exciting talk about hydrogen cars at one point, but that may have just been cause I was so...drunk from drinking every time he said 'evildoers.'"
Megan Carpentier, former Wonkette contributor-turned-beloved Internet freelancer:
"I really hate watching these long-winded political speeches. I mean, I really, really, really hate them. Reading them after the fact takes less time and comes with way fewer annoying standing ovations, and so, when I do watch them, I tend to do so with a drink in hand and an overwhelming sense of doing something unpleasantly obligatory, like having a dental cleaning or a gynecological exam. There are thus really only two of them I have any real recollection of. Naturally, I remember the whole Axis of Eeeeevil speech because of the hyperbole of calling Iraq, Iran and North Korea (and nobody else?) evil. I remember sitting on my now ex-boyfriend's crappy couch and wondering, did he just call three countries evil? As in, circles of hell, doing bad things for no good reason evil? Because that was the most unbelievable simplication and/or misunderstanding of another country's motivations I'd ever heard. The other occasion I remember was the first time Bush mentioned association health plans - which he did tonight, again - because at the time I was working in a coalition lobbying for them and I felt really cool for all of like two seconds. That was before I hated almost everything about lobbying, obviously."
Amy Argetsinger, Reliable Sourceress, Washington Post:
"The thing I remember most distinctly was Tim Kaine giving the Democratic response, and the way he kept raising his left eyebrow, so much so that I became convinced he was sending me secret messages."
But for most people, the most single distinct memory of Bush's State Of The Union addresses boiled down to one single phrase so brain-numbing in its sheer preposterousness that you could hear jaws dropping across the land. Our own Rachel Sklar leads the clarion call to remember:
"No human-animal hybrids! I'm claiming human-animal hybrids, totes!"
Yes. It was Bush's dire warning of the COMING OF THE CENTAUR PEOPLE that is the hands-down winner of the Most Remembered Moment:
Kriston Capps, contributing writer, Washington City Paper:
"Of all the State of the Union pledges President Bush failed to deliver on, the most deeply disappointing came in his 2006 address. President Bush asked Congress to 'pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research: human cloning in all its forms, creating or implanting embryos for experiments, creating human-animal hybrids, and buying, selling, or patenting human embryos.' Not only did no such legislation come into being, President Bush failed to provide a leadership role on this issue or, indeed, mention it again in the two years since. In fact, the very threat of human-animal hybrids has yet to even materialize. Unless that was what that thing was in Cloverfield, and really I mean everyone's conflicted about whether it's a space creature or a sea monster, but wouldn't it be something if that thing was borne of some Bush administration snafu? I have a feeling we'll find out--hopefully before it's too late. It's not like the President of the United States, the first nation in the free world, can mention something so dystopically suggestive as human-animal hybrids in an address to all 300-million-plus Americans, indeed, the whole world, and not expect someone in the press corps to follow up and find out what on God's green earth he meant to suggest when he mentioned the threat of human-animal hybrids."
Alex Pareene, editor, Gawker:
"The absolute best was his inexplicable warning against the creation of HUMAN-ANIMAL HYBRIDS in 2006. It's some sort of Xtian anti-science code term, I'm sure (and I was thrilled to see Drudge bring it back the other day in a cloning story) but it was so absurd and out-of-the-blue. The President is worried about THE MOLE PEOPLE. Beasts that are half man, half shark! Getting gay married to trees! Obviously the popular favorite will be MARS, BITCHES, but I think the mental image of the President fighting werewolves is a bit richer. PRESIDENT BUSH OPPOSES THE CREATION OF A 'SPIDER-MAN.'"
Alas, as we've learned from the Center For American Progress, even in this attempt, Bush has apparently failed. It nevertheless pleases us greatly that for once, we don't have to offer him the encouragement, "Better luck next year!"