State Of The Union Turns Into Beginning Of The End For President & Congress
The horror. The horror.
—Joseph Conrad, Heart Of Darkness
That was a weird State of the Union address.
I’ve been watching these things since I was a kid, a curious little brat wondering what’s with all this presidency and Congress, followed by wasted time covering and/or commenting on them since the late ’80s, and I have to be honest, that was some bizarre shit.
Here we have a president basically if not identically rolling out last year’s agenda (and the one before that and probably, don’t quite recall, but likely the one before that) with the same distant aplomb as is his wont, delivered to a vacuous body of haircuts, power ties, jewelry, expensive shoes and scrap-paper smiles that will most assuredly do with it what it has done for five years…nothing.
Oh, there were the obligatory claps and smiles, harrumphs and frowns, demands and asides, and, as usual, all of it seeming like pantomime; this strange scene from a Fellini film where no one is whom they claim to be because we’re not sure, nor are they, that they may be mere apparitions or perhaps something the auteur has put there to fuck with our heads. But this time the whole affair appeared more funereal, an ocular dirge worthy of requiem, accompanied by images of reptiles slithering through rotted human skulls.
The orator, Barack Obama, is two steps from lame-duck with a massive law strung around his neck, and the parts of it that’s working for a minuscule portion of the electorate has done nothing to mitigate its disaster. There is not a thing the president can say now or tomorrow, next week or next year that is going to amount to a wit, because even if he were as tyrannical as his ham-fisted detractors childishly wail, he is faced with the most inert Congress in the history of this republic. Despite dominating the political landscape by gaining two of the most impressive electoral victories for a Democratic candidate in two generations, Joe Cool appears as if he is a custodian, or worse, a bystander to history.
Obama sounds done because he is done. Change time, if there ever was one, is now over. That is unless the Democrats can slyly do what the Republicans pulled off for the remaining seven years of G.W. Bush’s train-wreck, painting him as a “defender of our sovereignty” after he idly stood watch over the horrors of 9/11. Shit, if anyone can sweep that nightmare under the rug, then it should be no problem making people forget the monstrosity of the AFA.
But this charade has a shelf life and it has come due. And the funny thing is Obama has known this since his second inauguration, when he began sounding the siren for “going it alone.” Of course, this was no clairvoyant act of political genius. You’d have to be completely brain dead to expect this Congress to allow anymore big stuff after the tactics of Nancy Pelosi’s 111th addition and the advent of this pestering joke of a TEA Party that works for a government it derides at every turn and then sits on its hands to prove ideological points in what amounts to kindergarten hissy fits.
What Obama does have going for him is that he is still president for the next three years and what he counted on during this Mad Hatter-esque showcase is Congress being the most reviled body this nation has ever known; its approval ratings dipping weekly into single digits, most of it pockmarked with clownish machinations staged for TV or committees filmed on TV or cable news sideshows on TV. Its members have now found it so tiresome to bludgeon this domestically ineffectual president they have taken to beating relentlessly on each other.
No less than four different Republicans gave rebuttals to this death rattle; the obligatory doe-eyed woman rolled out to quell more craziness from queer dinosaurs like Mike Huckabee, another woman, this time an obligatory Hispanic, the TEA Party guy cranking up his obligatory rant on “tyranny,” and Rand Paul, who, well…is the obligatory Paul who blazes his own path.
One gets the feeling that with the senate up for grabs this November, the Republicans for the third such election cycle will fuck it up with the same tired quasi-religious, misogynistic bigotry that screws the party every time. Already you have jackasses threatening to throw cub reporters off the balcony of the capital rotunda. You can’t make this crap up.
And so the president will extend his damaged usefulness beyond this body of the inept with the executive order, a fancy bit of marksmanship used by every president except William Henry Harrison, and mainly because he croaked shortly after being sworn in. Despite being accused of abusing this nugget by sub-mentals, Obama, as this space has argued and continues to argue, is so dispassionate about executive comings and goings that he has signed less executive orders in his first five years in office than any president since Grover Cleveland, and remember Cleveland had to span his out over half a decade since he served non-consecutive terms.
At 167 such orders, his is a whopping 30 behind G.W. Bush at 197 in his first five years and Clinton at 238, which means, and I think this doom-struck address pretty much presumed, he has some ground to make up.
But beyond the normal hoary political miasma, this annual lament was made complete by two of the most heinous uses of unfortunates to plug talking points this reporter has seen in some time, which effectively plunged the wretched thing to such depths it is hard to not offend by merely broaching them. I am speaking of the president’s parading of a mutilated veteran of 10 duties to the desert abattoir called Afghanistan for a painfully long standing ovation that should have stood as a warning against the brutal vagaries of our 21st century lust for perpetual war instead of a living metaphor for working our way through hard times and the Down syndrome child so callously offered up as some kind of right-wing talisman during the official Republican rebuttal.
The horror. The horror.
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James Campion is the Managing Editor of The Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of “Deep Tank Jersey”, “Fear No Art”, “Trailing Jesus”, “Midnight for Cinderella” and “Y”.