THE BLOG
02/01/2006 04:03 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

What if he Gave a State of the Union and Nobody Listened?

Not everybody watched the State of the Union address. Most people didn't. Lots of people had dinner to make. I know it may come as a shock to you that most people don't live in the Eastern Time zone, and an even greater shock to those in the political writing business.
I have around three hundred channels to choose from on my cable system, more or less. Nine of them carried the State of the Union. There were a lot of other places to go.
The numbers say viewership of the speech was overwhelmingly Republican.
We've seen the outpouring of opinion last night and this morning. What's missing is the towering irrelevancy of it all. Bush spoke like he was on an Ambien hangover. He said nothing, badly. Period.
Most of the rest of us went about our lives. Feeding the family on the west coast (and probably in the Mountain Time zone), spending time with our spousal unit and/or family in the Central Time zone, or spending our evening hooking up on MySpace in the East.
Those whose lives are spent and whose money is made on politics have a vested interest in commenting on every wrinkle and pucker of news makers. I used to be like that.
I'm the guy who used to watch BOTH C-SPAN channels simultaneously, read all the pundits religiously and wouldn't miss all the Sunday morning talk shows for anything.
What happened to the guy who voted for all those people who wanted the Feds to fix things?
I had spent most of my life in Baltimore, minutes away from the Capitol. Maybe the proximity to where the action is made me feel a part of it. Perhaps the heat radiating from the geopolitical center of the universe produced empathy in me, or at least fandom.
Then I moved to Portland, Oregon.
There was no buzz here.
People paid more attention to the salmon count in the STATE of Washington, than they did to Washington, D.C.
My first hint of this difference struck me shortly after I moved here in 1997. At the time, the cable provider carried only one C-SPAN channel, and The Oregonian wasn't carrying thousands of words per day of Washington news. And you had to be a P.I. to find the Washington Post. (I found it.)
During an interview on a radio talk show I was doing, I asked Bill Thomas, at the time the editor of Capitol Style magazine in Washington, D.C., to rate the Oregon congressional delegation for style points. He couldn't, really; there just wasn't much to say about them since Bob Packwood. Oregon was one of those, you know, "good government states."
Relatively few listeners called. Nobody was interested.
Then the Lewinsky scandal broke. Like all good political scandal junkies, I leapt upon it. To my surprise, I was berated by several friends, accusing me, as a member of the media, of spending too much time on it, TWO DAYS after the story broke. They didn't blame Bill, Monica, Ken or Linda. They blamed me for dwelling on a story they just didn't care about. Oh, I had lots of calls the first week, but by the third week of the scandal, I couldn't buy a call.
Monica and Bill and Hillary and Ken just didn't amount to much of a ripple in the Great Northwest. Why? These are things that happen there. To them. They don't really have much to do with my life. And I began to think, well, no....they don't, do they?
But get in our way, and look out.
Oregon voters twice passed death-with-dignity legislation. Most of the people here were satisfied with it. And then those...those FEDS in Washington were tried to negate the will of the people. Us. Me!
For the first time since they wanted to put me in uniform and send me to Vietnam, I felt the need for the federal government to keep out of my business. Odd too, it seemed, that it was the Republicans who were extending this particular arm of the governmental octopus and trying to squeeze the life out of the death-with-dignity law. But they don't seem to mind using the power when it suits their purposes, while paying lip-service to the concept of a less intrusive central government.
But that's all over now that the Supreme Court has bitch-slapped the Bush administration. Even the conservative frozen pea-packer, Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith has said it's a done deal.
Who'd a thunk it? Here I am, a lifelong lefty, siding with my Oregon buds, and standing up against the power of the federal government. Did I pass through some kind of looking glass when I crossed the Continental Divide?
I wasn't going to watch the speech last night, but I couldn't find a good movie and it was raining. I had it on, but I didn't really listen much. It was shrugworthy.