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January 24, 2007

Speeches, Regarding the Union, State of

Last night, I watched as a man who had foolishly deceived a great number of people with a flawed and cynical plan for success tried vainly to extricate himself from his folly when his plans went horribly wrong and he found himself called into account. Which is to say I watched the wonderful Nathan Lane as Max Bialystock in the movie version of The Producers, which I watched in the stead of the State of the Union, because, as you all know, I can't watch Bush try to speak without the urge to pull my eyeballs right out of their sockets. I read the transcript instead.

And as ever, I come away with: Some good ideas in there, but it's the details that matter, and in any case it's too bad this administration is too incompetent and too stubborn in the face of opposition to get any of the useful parts across. Again, this is my standard rap on the Bush folks, and nothing new. It surprises people when I occasionally mention that in theory, I like some of the things the administration proposes; well, I do. I simply despair at those ideas coming to fruition in a useful way; they're often been stalking horses for other, less genial things, or simply a lot of noise that goes nowhere. I do occasionally and wistfully wonder what the last several years would have been like, had a competent president pressed forward so many of the ideas that Bush has in the States of the Union; we'll never know, and I suppose I'm foolish for thinking about it.

I did actually watch the Democratic Response, partly because it was shorter and partly because I was interested in seeing how Jim Webb gets himself across. I'm less ecstatic about it than others I've seen; I thought it was well said but not anything spectacular, although one can certainly see how Webb has gotten a reputation for pugnaciousness. It does seem to suggest that if Bush is under the impression he's still driving the bus, he's in for a bit of a surprise.

Your thoughts?

Posted by john at January 24, 2007 09:04 AM

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Comments

Dave | January 24, 2007 09:16 AM

I was roped into watching it by the Mrs. To me, it almost seemed like he was trying to whip up support to go after Iran for their involvement in supporting the insurgents in Iraq. I don't know that he has enough power to pursue that type of plan, and maybe it's just me being paranoid, but it still makes me a bit nervous.

John Scalzi | January 24, 2007 09:24 AM

I don't suspect Bush is going to find much traction for attacking Iran, if that's indeed part of his plan. That's a statement independent of whether Bush might, as executive, choose to attack Iran over something, but at this point I think even that seems unlikely.

Steve Buchheit | January 24, 2007 09:37 AM

How was the New Producers? I love the original. Uma Thurmond just seems to be overkill for the secretary, and Mathew Broderick is no Gene Wilder. ALthough I will give props to Nathan Lane, I think he's more than up to matching or bettering Zero Mostel.

Sam | January 24, 2007 09:38 AM

My question is that the Federal government has literally thousands of analysts who look at and study middle eastern policy and trends. And none of them could have predicted that a weak Iraq would equal a strong and more dangerous Iran. For God's sake we gave Saddam weapons in the 80's so they can keep Iran in check. Or was Bush just that blind to topple a government that did us no harm?

Dan | January 24, 2007 09:42 AM

I don't know. His tying of Iran to Hezbollah and the Shiah violence in Iraq just reminded me of how he tied Al Qeada to Saddam Hussein and Iraq when he was making his case for invasion.

Other than that, it just seemed like he was setting the Democrats up for failure by unloading a mess of unattainable goals for them to try and handle.

Sam | January 24, 2007 09:58 AM

Why did Bush throw Darfur in the speech when his government policies really havent done anything for it.

Nathan Zumwalt | January 24, 2007 10:01 AM

I'm glad I'm not the only one that can't stand to hear GW speak. They way he.... pauses after every.... third word really.... drives me nuts.


Thanks for the link to the transcript... it saved me a Google search!

Gina Black | January 24, 2007 10:06 AM

I got paid to watch Bush so that I could say "roll it" at the end (whenever that was) and we'd return to our regularly scheduled programming.

I hate watching Bush, paid or not. Yes, details would be nice.

Nathan | January 24, 2007 10:11 AM

I'm pretty sure I've watched every SoTU speech given during my adult life.

Last night I popped in Monty Python's Holy Grail. I'll read the transcript later.

JonathanMoeller | January 24, 2007 10:37 AM

What was really fun was watching Cheney and Pelosi sitting next to each other with the solemnly grim expressions of people in severe intestinal distress.

Not Faint Hearted | January 24, 2007 10:38 AM

I watched a NOVA program on glacial ice-lakes near Mont Blanc for the exact same reason! Thanks for the link to the transcript.

I have little hope that any of the possibly good ideas he proposed will be the focus of the next two years.

Steve Buchheit | January 24, 2007 10:42 AM

Nathan, me too. I don't think I've missed a single one, until last night. I had emails I needed to write.

Tim | January 24, 2007 10:48 AM

I can't bring myself to watch it or read it. It's meaningless, and hurts my brain.

I don't try to stay ignorant of important political events, but this just isn't genuinely important. It's worse than a campaign speech.

JD | January 24, 2007 10:50 AM

Glad I was not the only one who watched and thought that there were a few good ideas in there. But as in writing, no one is going to pay you for good ideas, you have to get them 'on paper' as it were.

Ray | January 24, 2007 11:06 AM

I did not watch this nor will I read the transcript. I already have a good idea of what he said. You can be sure it will take at least 5 more administrations with better foreign policies to undo what the Bush administration foreign policy has done in 2 terms. It is sickening. What is even more sickening is now he is crying to the EU and Arab states to help undo this debacle that he got himself in (hmm...We all know Cheney is the real mastermind anyways.)

Christian | January 24, 2007 11:13 AM

The president spoke last night?

The president of what?

Oh that guy, right.

I was was watching Anthony Bourdain eat a bacon donut on the Travel Channel. Mmmmm...bacon donut.

John Scalzi | January 24, 2007 11:15 AM

Bacon donut?!??!

Why was I not informed?

hugh57 | January 24, 2007 11:25 AM

Bacon donut?!??!

Why was I not informed?

Your cat, no doubt, suppressed the information. Didn't want you getting any ideas. :)

Matt Jarpe | January 24, 2007 11:44 AM

I usually watch the SOTU every year. Is it me or is the political gamesmanship of standing ovations getting worse? Every sentence elicits a round of applause from one side or the other or both, or a standing ovation from one side or the other or both. The congress just look like a bunch of idiots during that speech.

I do find it interesting that when Bush takes a Democratic talking point as his own, Cheney is forced to clap on camera for something he obviously wants nothing to do with. "We're going to reduce gasoline consumption by 25% by 2017" (or whatever it was). And there's Cheney mechanically banging his palms together while his face says "There goes my second hunting lodge in Peru."

Chang who gots flavor | January 24, 2007 11:44 AM

I watched the pre-game before. I knew I would get soo spitting mad I wouldn't be able to watch. SUre enough, Condoleeza Rice walks in and I felt my bile and blood pressure rising.

So...

I actually turned off the TV. Then I put some jazz up on Pandora and sat with my wife, who is mightily enjoying OMW. I was content to sit and edit my own novel. Twas a lovely evening.

Dan | January 24, 2007 11:44 AM

Oh man. I love Voodoo Donuts. The make teh crack.

Chang who gots flavor | January 24, 2007 11:46 AM

I heard about Drake Sayther and his bit on the chicken donut he had in China... and then the ensuing intestinal distress. Perhaps the donut had been near Cheney, too.

Chang who gots flavor | January 24, 2007 11:47 AM

Oh, and just because, I will check out the transcript after lunch when I am sated on turkey and cheese and less likely to become violent.

Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers | January 24, 2007 11:53 AM

NATHAN LANE??!!! No way! Tell you what, let Nathan Lane do a remake of "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum" and compare it to Zero's classic turn, and we'll see who's who.

As for Bushy Baby, we just have to survive another 2 years of his reign. If he can keep his hands off the red telephone, that might even happen. Oh, if you're curious what the government thinks of its president, you should know that the FBI has a nickname for Cheney: Edger, as in Edger Bergen.

Paul | January 24, 2007 11:54 AM

I've seen The Producers. You might have been more entertained watching the State of the Union address. Or, at least, your wife might have been.

Steve Buchheit | January 24, 2007 12:03 PM

Chang, feel the burn. Indigestion. :)

Cassie | January 24, 2007 12:04 PM

Jim Webb's not interested in bipartisanship, is he?

John Scalzi | January 24, 2007 12:06 PM

Nonsense, Paul. Krissy loves that film. Also, Bruce Cohen, it does no violence to Zero Mostel's performance to say one enjoys Nathan Lane's. And, of course, Lane has done Forum, on Broadway, and got a Tony for it. You'll be pleased to know Lane thanked Mostel.

Christian | January 24, 2007 12:12 PM

Indeed - Anthony Bourdain was in Portland for last night's episode, and he did in fact go to "Voodoo Doughnut" for a bacon doughnut.

Here is a link to said doughtnut (left hand column of pictures, 3rd picture down):

http://voodoodoughnut.com/menu.html

I want one, and I want it NOW!

//would have to travel 3000 miles [sad face].

dave | January 24, 2007 12:13 PM

My thoughts?

Scalzi for president.

You probably wouldn't want the job, which would also probably make you better at it. If nothing else, you could no doubt write a better speech.

Rich | January 24, 2007 12:14 PM

My wife and I watched the Illusionist with Ed Norton, Jessica Biehl, Paul Giamatti and Rufus Sewell. Which we thoroughly enjoyed. I shall speak not of my opinions of the POTUS or his SOTUS.

dave | January 24, 2007 12:14 PM

My thoughts?

Scalzi for president.

You probably wouldn't want the job, which would also probably make you better at it. If nothing else, you could no doubt write a better speech.

Rich | January 24, 2007 12:15 PM

My wife and I watched the Illusionist with Ed Norton, Jessica Biehl, Paul Giamatti and Rufus Sewell. Which we thoroughly enjoyed. I shall speak not of my opinions of the POTUS or his SOTUS.

Sarah | January 24, 2007 12:16 PM

I refused to watch it. After the Gulf Coast was not even mentioned in last year's version, it hit home that I obviously don't live in the Union, that the Union is in fact in the Middle East, or so one might think from the content of Bush's speeches. So why watch?

I will sit here in my little outpost in ignored "sort-of-America" and try to pretend Bush isn't in the White House.

Jon Marcus | January 24, 2007 12:16 PM

To say one enjoys Nathan Lane is one thing.

To say: "...I will give props to Nathan Lane, I think he's more than up to matching or bettering Zero Mostel" is fighting words, pardner.

I didn't see the SotU myself, for similar reasons. But I've heard a couple of folks say Bush diverged from the script and refered to the "Democrat" Congress. Even when he's trying to act all bipartisan-ish, he evidently can't stop with the snide little digs.

Steve Buchheit | January 24, 2007 12:17 PM

Bruce Cohen, I'm not dissing Zero, I'm just saying that Nathan Lane can hold his own. Zero does go over the top with a whole hog enthusiasm whereas Lane makes it look like that's his normal. Both are great, both do a wonderful job, but in comparison to the original film, I think Lane was a better fit for his role than the other cast members of the New Producers. I haven't seen the new film, so I can only go by past performances.

Of course, this morning I've been going back and forth between, "Springtime for Hitler" and "Prisoners of Love."

John Scalzi | January 24, 2007 12:24 PM

Dave:

"Scalzi for president."

Krissy won't let me.

theophylact | January 24, 2007 12:27 PM

I make it a policy not to watch or listen to any Presidential speeches. I've stuck to that policy since Nixon's abdication speech (which was worthwhile in gloat value).

I have special avoidance incentives in Junior's case; I can't stand to hear the sound of his voice. But the general principle is a good one anyway. I may yet extend it to election-year Presidential debates.

Steve Buchheit | January 24, 2007 12:27 PM

John, "Krissy won't let me."

Well, you don't have to tell her.

JD | January 24, 2007 12:39 PM

John, "Krissy won't let me."

Well, you don't have to tell her.

The secret service patrol following her around might tip her off.

John Scalzi | January 24, 2007 12:40 PM

Yeah, I don't think I'd get that one past her. She's pretty sharp.

Steve Buchheit | January 24, 2007 01:00 PM

That and it would be pretty hard to explain the Chartered 747 flights. "Why does it say Angel One on the side? And why can't we use the jetway like normal people?"

So, you know, eventually you'd have to say something about it. But at least the Secret Service would keep the furries away.

WizarDru | January 24, 2007 01:02 PM

My wife made it clear that we weren't watching it, not that I had any intention of doing so. I mean, the Locust were invading Terra, and we needed to find the resonator and Alpha Squad before they found us so that we could....

uh, I mean, I played Gears of War, instead, while the wife browsed fark.

David Wilford | January 24, 2007 01:10 PM

Bush may have uttered a few nice-sounding bromides as usual last night, but if the past is any indication his energy proposals will be drafted by Big Oil lobbyists behind closed doors with Dick Cheney. Having the best legislation money can buy is by definition bad legislation, and you can be sure the Democrats in Congress will have none of it.

Sara | January 24, 2007 01:35 PM

It ought to interest you to know that my roommate is an officer in the Navy, a staunch Republican, a Bush supporter...

...and even she admits there was no reason to go into Iraq. She went over there and fought, and believes in finishing what we start (which I agree with her on--you can't start something and not finish it), but still thinks there wasn't a good reason to go in.

Bruce Cohen, SpeakerToManagers | January 24, 2007 01:57 PM

Steve Buchheit:
OK, maybe I overreacted a little. But Zero was so much better at physical comedy than anybody else I can think of that it's hard to watch Nathan Lane do the part (ever see him do Ionescu's "Rhinocerous"? Prepocerous. Also, anything produced or directed by Mel Brooks makes me break out in hives.

Full disclosure: I went to college and was friends with Zero Mostel's son Josh, who is also an actor.

Chang who gots flavor | January 24, 2007 02:12 PM

Looking at the picture at the top, Cheney above left of the cimp, looks as if he's trying to crap out a ham. Pelosi looks as if she's staring pleasantly into the distance trying to figure out if Hilary Clinton or Barack Obama will be standing next to her in two years.

ship | January 24, 2007 02:31 PM

i specifically DID NOT watch the shame of the union, but looking at him smirking in the picture above makes me think of only one thing: what a douche.

Steve Buchheit | January 24, 2007 02:40 PM

Bruce Cohen, "Zero was so much better at physical comedy"

No doubt. I really like Zero in Producers and Forum. I haven't seen the new one. I'm not sure I'd like it, because I like the old one so much.

"Prisoners of love, blue skies above..."

dave | January 24, 2007 02:44 PM

Dave:

"Scalzi for president."

Krissy won't let me.

Oh c'mon-we could use more of a no-nonsense first lady. That picture of Krissy with the bat would totally seal the deal.

Jenny Rae Rappaport | January 24, 2007 02:54 PM

I agree with Dave... Krissy as first lady would rock.

I took your route last night, and dragged my boy out to see Dreamgirls, which I loved. It was *really* good. =)

And as for The Producers, I like that too, although I've only seen the live version.

John Scalzi | January 24, 2007 02:57 PM

Jenny Rae Rappaport:

"I agree with Dave... Krissy as first lady would rock."

I think she'd make a better President, myself.

Wakboth | January 24, 2007 03:12 PM

"I think she'd make a better President, myself."

Maybe, but I don't think you'd make a very photogenic First Lady...

Todd Stull | January 24, 2007 03:41 PM

Bush is a disingenous prick. Every time I hear him speak, I want to vomit. This was the best we could do as President? On the speech:

1) He calls for spending discipline. Oh please. He gets us into a war where he seems to want carte blanche to spend billions upon billions, and he calls for spending discipline. He is a hypocrite.
2) Yeah, let’s fix our social safety net. By running a government surplus. Of course, that would require spending discipline. See above. I bet Bush is going to try to privatize it, and watch it become a business run for profit. Jerk.
3) No Child Left Behind. Since I actually studied the law as a school social worker, unlike Bush, this law just makes we want to vomit. Students may be scoring higher on the standardized tests because teachers are spending tons of time teaching to the tests. Unfortunately, the tests are not a great gauge of what a child is actually learning in school, or predictive of success in life or jobs.
4) Surprisingly, even though he is bullheaded, some of his ideas to increase medical insurance coverage were sound. I’m not convinced his tax breaks will make any difference to most poor people, especially the homeless and near homeless clients I work with.
5) Why does Bush keep focusing on immigration? I think because he wants to satisfy powerful business interests that rely on immigrants who work for cheap. Whatever. How about securing our border ports first?
6) Energy diversification would be nice. I agree with John that I don’t trust it will actually happen. Too much money is at stake over the short term.
7) Terrorism and Iraq. I really liked his line “We did not drive al Qaeda out of their safe haven in Afghanistan only to let them set up a new safe haven in a free Iraq.” Really? But I thought al Qaeda was already in Iraq. That’s one of the reason we invaded. I just heard another pile of fear mongering craptacular rhetoric. Here’s the deal – we cannot soothe the sectarian hatreds at the barrel of the gun. Maybe the UN could serve as peacekeepers and get some experts in there on reconciliation, but I don’t see our military serving that function. So, it’s time to withdraw with the sad knowledge that this is why we should not go overthrowing dictators (after propping them up first).
8) Liked the part about fighting HIV. So not a total loss, that State of the Union.

It’s interesting, if you compare the number of words in the speech on domestic versus foreign policy, you might think America is obsessed with war.

Nick Stump | January 24, 2007 04:03 PM

I thought Webb was terrific. Read Robert Timbergs, The Nightingale's Song, and you'll see what kind of metal he's made of. Webb's the real thing, a genuine populist Democrat. He has a strong message about economic fairness, and he understands war from more than a theoretical, I like play Age of Empires, viewpoint.

I've been a fan of his since I came back from Vietnam. Webb's Fields of Fire is a remarkable absolutely accurate book that reads like good Hemingway.

I've followed his career over the years. He has worked hard for this country, our veterans and has been a consistant voice saying we should stay out of Iraq, as far back as the first Gulf War.

I'd like to see him run for President in '08. He's more qualified than any applicant the Democrats have.

Martyn Taylor | January 24, 2007 04:17 PM

The state of your union is, of course, none of my business, but I have to go with Zero over Nathan on this one. Nathan is good, but... The original is the best.

My family all like The New Producers (sounds like The New Avengers with Joanna Lumley instead of Diana Rigg - which makes my point) whereas I prefer the original, just as I prefer 'La Cage au Folles' to The Birdcage.

They all make me laugh.

Which brings me back to Mr Bush...

Monica | January 24, 2007 04:33 PM

I had to watch the beginning, just to hear the words, "Madame Speaker."

The rest, I had to read. I can't abide hearing the President speak. I think he mispronounces "nuclear" just to tick me off.

I did watch the Democrat response, and spent most of the time trying to figure out if his hair was fake or just puffy. Which my significant other then pointed out pretty much sums up watching anything political on tv--figuring out if it's fake or puffy.

Jason Long | January 24, 2007 04:34 PM

Speaking of, did anyone read the Alberto Gonzales legal opinion of habeas corpus?

http://baltimorechronicle.com/2007/011907Parry.shtml

Buck | January 24, 2007 04:46 PM

Christian: I've called him "The President of Texas" since 2000. He's never 'got it' that he's supposed to work for all Americans.

Todd: As to W's fascination with immigration, in part I think it's the President of Texas thing. I'm sure he's got lots of fond memories of all the tequila, pot and coke that he enjoyed while a guest in Mexico. I'm an immigration attorney and work with illegal Mexicans every day. The weird thing is that most Mexicans would be content to work seasonally in the US and live in Mexico. Closing the border 'trapped' millions here. The 2001 amnesty was supposed to do two things: normalize the situation of illegals in the US and start to put teeth in sanctions against employers who hire illegals. Fewer than a couple of dozen employers have been fined each year, whereas there have to be upwards of five million illegal Mexicans working. Wal-Mart wants cheap toilet cleaners, and this is how they get them.

And finally, I'm in the same 'vomit or pull out my eyeballs instead of watching Bush speak' situation as a lot of you, so I had a few beers at the bar and caught up with an old friend.

Steve Buchheit | January 24, 2007 04:54 PM

Jason Long, heard it last night on TV. How soon will they be out of power? I'm only asking 'cause my oath is itching.

Anonymous | January 24, 2007 05:14 PM

I know I'm going to get flamed for this, please don't.
John said "And as ever, I come away with: Some good ideas in there, but it's the details that matter, and in any case it's too bad this administration is too incompetent and too stubborn in the face of opposition to get any of the useful parts across."
This is the same thing I thought all thru the Clinton years, and pretty much the Reagan year too. Politicians are politicians, and until these two parties learn to quit fighting and start working together, this is what we have to work with.

Miscellaneous Steve | January 24, 2007 05:17 PM

Webb's Fields of Fire is a remarkable absolutely accurate book that reads like good Hemingway.

It's been more than 20 years since I read Fields of Fire, but I agree that it's a damned fine book.

Also, I didn't watch the SotU speech and don't intend to read the transcript. I don't bother with them when they're delivered by presidents I like, there's no way I'd watch or read one from a president I loathe.

Paul | January 24, 2007 05:37 PM

Listening to Bush give a speech has gone beyond painful. The guy should never be allowed to give another public speech, ever.

However, Webb was much much worse because his content was so vaccuous as to be nugatory.

Did he really suggest Eisenhower/Korea as a template for Iraq?

Correct me if I am wrong, but we still have significant troops deployed along the DMZ 50 years later because instead of winning we agreed to a time out ... Is that the same kind of solution that he is reccomending for Iraq? That we chop the country into pieces and then sit on the internal borders for the next 50 plus years?

Yes Bush and company have demonstrated that they have no idea how to finish and get out and frankly they could use some ideas from the Democrats, if the democrats have any ideas.

It was disapointing that the democrats didn't appplaud when Bush called for winning in Iraq. Since when is winning a political position, I always thought it was an American thing.
Question the tactics? sure. ( Monday morning quarterbacking is very American).
Question the goal? Do we really have a major political party that doesn't want us to win?

Look at North and South Korea... which one would you rather live in?

Todd Stull | January 24, 2007 06:30 PM

Paul:

I guess the answer to one of your questions is: define winning.

If by winning, you mean put a stop to sectarian violence in Iraq, then I suppose there are some solutions out there. Some possible ones: 1)Deploy enough troops to occupy all major urban neighborhoods indefinitely and enforce curfews; 2) Occupy neighborhoods until Iraqis can take over security responsibilities; 3)Foster some sort of reconciliation between the groups. Problem is that occupation will take a lot more troops than we have. It does not seem clear as to when Iraqis will be ready, or how and when reconciliation will happen. What kind of timeframe are we looking at? Do we have successful templates to build from? I read and see estimates of 10+ years!! Involving as high or higher troop levels. And relying on high level diplomacy involving many countries, some of which Bush brands as evil.

Perhaps the Democrats weren't clapping because they figured that Bush's definition of winning was a pie in the sky dream that is not within the US' capability to even achieve.

Personally, my definition of winning is: get written commitments from the Iraqi leadership to agree to a phased withdrawal of troops, beginning immediately (or as soon as the commitment is signed), try to get multinational peacekeepers to spend some time helping the Iraqis, and then use economic rewards and sanctions to influence their policies and development. Really, how does the United States seek to "win" over the issue of sectarian hatred? I would love to see some more thoughts about that here. I don't claim to have the answer, but at least I am not spinning the situation to satisfy constituents.

Eric | January 24, 2007 07:35 PM

I had the streaming video from MSNBC on in the background while I was surfing the web elsewhere--come to think of it, that may have been the most impressive part of the speech now that I think about it. I remember those old DOS days when you ran one thing at a time, and those early OS/2 days when you could multitask except there wasn't really anything to do; but now?

But never mind that. The actual speech. Would have been a lovely speech two or four years ago, you know? Part of the problem I have with Bush is that the rare times he says something I think is sensible, it's always too late and too insincere, like a domestic abuser apologizing to his wife for yesterday's drunken beating. "Hey, we'll go for a romantic getaway, just the two of us? Won't that be nice? I'll take you to that restaurant you liked when we were on our honeymoon. Your sister can watch the kids. It'll be just like it used to be, right honey?"

I mean, if Bush had been talking about fuel economy standards way back when instead of blathering about a pipe-dream world of hydrogen fuel-cell cars, that would have been nice. Back then. But to talk about it last night, after sucking up to Big Oil for six years and at a point in time when the Democratic Congress might be inclined to do it anyway? Yes, these dozen roses from the convenience store on the corner totally make up for when you knocked my front teeth out, honey.

I read Webb's response this morning, and it gave me hope for the Democrats. It wasn't just pugnacious, it was also articulate, to the point, and kevlar-coated. Webb made it really damn hard for the administration to pull their usual "Democrats are soft on national defense" bull. The fact that the Dems had enough sense to realize that and choose Webb as the spokesman suggests they might actually be taking things seriously and, you know, planning things. (Will Rogers quip about not belonging to an organized political party has been painfully accurate for almost a decade now. Personally, I'm an independent--I think the Dems are usually too conservative--but our democracy kind of depends on the idea of opposition parties in the general sense: balanced powers, competing legislative houses, floor debates, adversarial justice. When the "opposition" is doing their best impression of Monty Python's Twit Olympics, the system breaks down.)

Aaron Haynes | January 24, 2007 08:45 PM

I played the SOTU drinking game.

All the shots of Obama, Kerry, and Ted Kennedy, plus all the times only Cheyney or only Pelosi would clap got me significantly behind by minute 10.

Anonymous | January 24, 2007 10:14 PM

"I think she'd make a better President, myself."

Maybe, but I don't think you'd make a very photogenic First Lady...

Krissy for President! And John can wear the tiara to jazz up his First Lady image. Nothing says "restrained elegance" like a dude in a tiara.

Nick Stump | January 25, 2007 12:03 AM

I'm pretty sure Webb drew a line in the sand. Paul, I'm not sure what winning in this war will be. At this point, I'll be glad to get our sons and daughter home in any way that doesn't include a body bag.

I'm no liberal kissy-face about this or any war, but I found Webb's retort on point and needed to be said by a Democrat. We Dems have not always shown the proper amount of courage when dealing with this war and I'm glad to see Jim Webb stepping up to the plate.

I've read a lot of Jim Webb's writing--not just the fiction and the recent WSJ piece on economic fairness, but you should read his military and foreign policy papers most of which can be found at jameswebb.com. He writes about everything from the evolution of the classic fire team in combat to the emergence and threat of China as the next superpower. I have not found his work to be vacuous, nor did I think his speech to be so. I would hope you would take another, perhaps deeper look at Senator Webb and I hope you might see something you liked about the man.

I think he's grand. We've needed a populist Democrat in Washington for years.

Just'Passin | January 25, 2007 01:13 AM

And here I just had a "debate" with a guy who thought that Bush is a smart and courageous person.

This person claimed that it is not easy to be the president of America, and that Bush must have long term plans (smart) and is willing to go to war (courageous) for it to succeed in say, 20 year's time.

I disagreed rather vehemently with the assessment, and said that if the world prospered 20 years down the road, it would be because Bush is no longer in office. I got called a Bush hater.(Btw, we're in Asia.)

John | January 25, 2007 07:50 AM

Webb makes me laugh.

Then I realize he's being serious and he makes me worry.

David Wilford | January 25, 2007 09:21 AM

John, the fact that you're worrying about Webb is a feature, not a bug. It's about time we stopped fooling ourselves by continuing to believe that Bush's hopes for Iraq are plans that will actually work. To get serious about Iraq is to worry, because things there are going badly.

John | January 25, 2007 01:29 PM

I certainly agree that things haven't been handled well in our occupation. Definitely too much belief that Iraqi forces were ready to keep the peace after we clear areas.

But I've never heard a single decent plan from the other side, either. Other than "phased withdrawal" which is a non-plan.

Tom | January 25, 2007 02:02 PM

Didn't watch the speech; I read the synopses. And yes, some of them aren't half-bad ideas, but all that I can say with regards to them is, "Hydrogen cars." In his 2003 SOTU address--the same one that contained the notorious sixteen words--W also mumbled a few words about alternative-fuel vehicles. It was a way for supposedly moderate supporters of his administration to claim that W wasn't just a puppet of Big Oil or that we weren't going to war to get our hands on Iraq's reserves, just as his support of education while he was governor of Texas was supposed to counter the blatantly obvious fact that he's as dumb as a box of rocks. It also served as a sort of carrot to the stick of Karl Rove's thuggish political tactics; at least the guy wasn't completely bad, right? And any observations that he tended not to follow through with his quasi-progressive ideas went about as far as suggesting to Charlie Brown that, you know, it might be a good idea for someone else to hold the football this time.

I like Eric's domestic abuse analogy; the one that I thought of was that of a man-eating tiger who has been taught to hold out a paw for you to shake. It's a completely unexpected gesture, and having been thrown off-balance, you might be tempted to hope that perhaps the animal has been completely domesticated. But don't kid yourself. Sooner or later, dinnertime will roll around.

Jeremiah | January 25, 2007 02:49 PM

Yeeea. I had no plans to know anything about the SotU. I might read the transcript, since it was linked by Scalzi for us lazy people.

I just...get discouraged anymore. I want a president that is smarter than us, and speaks better than any of us. And I want the people around him (or her!) to be even smarter.

But, instead, we get cowboys. sigh.

Madeline F | January 25, 2007 03:37 PM

James Adomian, a Bush impersonator, did a video parody of the State of the Union which has a couple laugh-out-loud moments...

Mark A. York | January 25, 2007 10:02 PM

Must be painful to live in Ohio?

John Scalzi | January 25, 2007 11:07 PM

Eh. There are worse things.

Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little | January 26, 2007 05:26 PM

John @ 1:29 PM: "But I've never heard a single decent plan from the other side, either. Other than 'phased withdrawal' which is a non-plan."

Stop buying Bush's talking points.

RedChair | January 30, 2007 02:17 AM

Webb was terrible!!! Maybe he's getting a nod for being the pug in the group - maybe somebody owed him a favor, but for heavens sake...

Passionless, boring, faltering, static, pedantic, sort of like the SOU itself... but without that pretty lady sitting behind him.

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