The Usual State of the Union Address - With a Twist - Rolling Stone
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The Usual State of the Union Address – With a Twist

Tom Williams / CQ/Roll Call

A quick note: I know I promised to unveil the composition of the Supreme Assholedom Court today, but it’s going to be another day, as I’m awaiting some further info from a couple of the applicants. My official biographers will take photographs of me today sitting at my desk with my head buried in my hands, deep in contemplation, then taking pained Churchillesque strolls through the snow as I agonize over the final nomination decisions (I’m buying a cane for the occasion), etc.

Meanwhile, about the State of the Union address: My first response was one of mild revulsion, not just for the speech itself but for all the attendant theater surrounding it, from the hilarious “I know you are, but what am I?” nerf-argument between Ari Fleischer and David Gergen on Anderson Cooper to burgeoning suburban-Hitler Michelle Bachmann’s idiotic “rebuttal” to the speech to the lunatic over-dissections of Obama’s word choices, with the prize there going to jabbering mental incompetent/Washington Examiner columnist Byron York’s ravings over Obama’s use of the term “working class” which is apparently evidence of the president’s “Marxist upbringing.”

I was initially grossed out by all of this totally predictable theatrical yammering between Democrats and Republicans, but then I woke up this morning to read a Washington Post article that cited Miss Manners hailing the speech as a “return to civility.” Apparently the fact that Republicans and Democrats mixed up the seating arrangements and sat together throughout the hall was a big step for decency and good taste, and maybe it was. Maybe I’m just being cynical – maybe the blue-red Kabuki combat wasn’t that bad last night, relatively.

Obama, as he seemingly always does, tried to play Solomon, on the one hand offering support for a cut in the corporate tax rate while also promising to close corporate tax loopholes (somehow I doubt the math is going to work out there). He also promised a domestic spending freeze on the one hand (the seemingly overtly symbolic concession to cutting “community action” programs sounded like Obama slapping himself on the face for the benefit of Tea Partiers) while promising on the other hand to exempt education spending from said freeze, a tandem move designed to appeal to deficit hawks and social-spending advocates at once.

Paul Ryan’s response, meanwhile, offered the mature observation that both parties were responsible for the debt problem. While it’s true that Bachmann went off the reservation and all but argued for revolt against the impending totalitarian Obama takeover, Ryan’s comments were remarkably sane by Republican standards.

Usually I find the State of the Union address boring. President (of either party) unveils laboratory-crafted, poll-tested speech, full of promises that over the next year will systematically be broken: opposing party reflexively blasts same speech as lie-filled horseshit, counters with bevy of wildly optimistic, totally insincere policy proposals that they know have no chance of being implemented. It’s pretty much the same situation every year. The twist this year is that both parties seemed genuinely humbled a little by the Giffords incident and toning down the rancor just enough to leave the door open for a little genuine bipartisan cooperation – which I suspect really will occur when it comes time to enact those corporate tax cuts.  


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