Music: American Idol and the 2007 State of the Union Address
As American Idol wraps up I’m preparing to watch Bushie II’s annual address. It occurred to me I might do a kind of stream-of-consciousness blogging as I watched and listened to Bushie II, let’s call it a blogcast. I’m sure the term means something else to someone else online, but that’s what I’m going to call this: a blogcast. Here are the rules: 1. I will type exactly what comes into my head as I listen (as quickly as I can—I’ll probably not be able to write it all down); I am only allowed to edit with a spellcheck; 3. I must post my blogcast within fifteen minutes of the end of the speech (so as to give myself time to reflect, but to avoid being “spinned” by the after-speech chatter). This should be fun!
T-minus 6 minutes: I’m thinking I should have listed beforehand the generic norms of State of the Union addresses (which are well known among my ilk, the Rhetoricanians). Oh, here we go.
There’s Laura, nice dress. At Randall’s I was in the forever long line—you know, I get in the freakin’ slow one—and the cover story for a tabloid was that Bush walked out on Laura in the “worst fight of their marriage.” She looks pretty happy though.
Cider is too hot. It doesn’t need to be boiling to dissolve the packet. Why are the justices always at this thing? Cider still too hot; I can’t tell it’s sugar free, though, so that’s good.
Rick sent that photo of Bill Clinton’s head on Hilary’s body today. Man, that was creepy. Lots of red dresses tonight. What’s with the red dresses? Red ties too. Condi is a twit (ok, that’s not what I’m really thinking, but some censoring is necessary). Campbell Brown is a commentator now? Jeeze: I thought she only did soft pieces on the weekend. I like her voice—it’s very confident and smart. Why do they put Katie Couric on the nightly news? She does not appear as smart to me. But better than Rather—I know he was a Texas boy and all, but what an ass.
Room full of presidential wanna-bes. Brown says they will be cautious with their eyebrows because any furtive shows will be “on Youtube forever.” Hugh. That’s interesting to think about: easy access gaff capturing. Oh my god: that barbaric yawp of what’s-his-face, chairman of the DNC, Dean. Right. Someone was telling me McCain will not be the next president because he will land a gaff as he has consistently done in previous runs that gets him beat up. But Bush is a veritable gaff-a-ram and looks like Alfred E. Newman, so . . . . Maybe McCain is just not impotent enough?
Bill Livingwood announces Bush—it would be so kick ass to have that guy do my answering machine message. Bush is wearing a light blue tie. Ah-ha: contrite, indeed. It’s not red, which is telling. This is going to be a very interesting rhetorical gesture. I expect he will do something unexpected. Oh my god: my grandfather kind of looks like Bush after he dropped all that weight. Eek. NBC is good, but I should try Fox’s coverage just to look at the framing. I bet they are getting relentless shots of Laura and her red dress.
Oooh, there’s Palosi—not wearing red, but a sedate “sea foam” (I learned that color name from a commercial). Clothing signifiers are important. “Ready to go?” he asked. “Let’s do it!” She calls to order, five knocks.
His mouth looks like a tiny cave. Oooh, shout-out to “Madam Speaker!” Uproarious. A gracious gesture, and comes off as sincere. Good move.
Man his speechwriters and coaches have really worked Bush over since the first presidency. Gerson was on television this morning talking about the challenges of this speech. Why did they cut Gerson (or why did he leave)? The speeches are not as good, but I suppose more godless, which is good. What is his lapel pin? Is that . . . American flag. I’m a bad listener? I am more interest in the bling than what’s coming out of his mouth (cause it’s empty!). “Work to be done,” “responsibility,” “crossing the aisle.” So he opens with a “w00t, you go girl” and then “we gots ta werk tagetha!”
Ok, now were into “it’s the economy stupid” stuff: balancing the budget is out of his mouth first. Yay! Everyone’s happy. And we can do so without taxes? Boo. And monkeys will fly out of my butt. His little mouth kind of reminds me of a butt—except when he licks his lips. Then it reminds me of a mouth. Good hand gestures. His ears are kind of Vulcanesque. Do my students critique my looks like this? Hopefully my lectures are more interesting. It’s hard to make them love Isocrates, but I think my comparison of Helen of Troy and Paris to Jessica Beal and Clooney got them thinking. Can Ted Kennedy’s face get any redder? It looks like a festering pimple.
Fixing Medicare and Medicaid. Do I pay that? I couldn’t find it on my pay stub. Social security was there but I didn’t see Medicare.
Oh shit, here’s a hot button: “No child left behind.” He’s calling it a success? WTF? We’re staring to get the product of no child left behind in college now. They can take tests! But write? Think critically? Appreciate the arts? Math and science skills–please, Congress, don’t reauthorize this measure!
Cheney has a little lapel pin too—what is it? A flag. Reform for health insurance, baloney. Oooh, bright green tie: who is that guy? Cheney does sort of resemble Jabba the Hut. Maybe he thinks Pelosi is chained to him. Watching the back of Bush’s head must be akin to eating those little squid things Jabba eats. Grants grants grants. Blah blah blah. Expand health savings accounts. Hey! I have one of those. I don’t see any discernable benefit, however. It’s supposed to be a tax shelter, but I think I have to spend more to see a difference. Therapist charges $300 a session. Shit. I couldn’t believe that when I saw it (I get whacked with $40). You know, I should think about getting into that gig. Though I think if I ever said “Lacan” aloud I’d be banished from the APA or something. Didn’t his patients have a high incident of suicide?
Securing the boarders, hoo-hah. Temporary worker program. Hmm. Will help us “track” them in our relentless search for terrorists. Keeps ’em legal, helps us weed out the evildoers. Melting pot, assimilation. Ooooohhh: miscegenation trope alert! Quick, get your Charles Sumner Playbook! Well, immigration reform is good—maybe all those rallies last year made a difference? At least on the “public screen” as DeLuca and Peeples put it.
Ooh, the secretary of energy looks like a Boston Baked Bean. Red red red! What’s up with the red dresses and red faces (is my TV not adjusted?). Red noses. He wants new energy strategies. His eyebrows got excited with the mention of “wood chips.”
Isn’t it great Rick Santorum is not to be seen!
More on cars and gas and stuff, reducing dependence . . . oh, more calls for more drilling. My friend Meredith is a lawyer for a drill company. She says it’s all my fault for encouraging her to go to law school. I said ACLU, not oil drilling companies. Her father is the CEO, though, so I have to give her some slack. And this IS Texas, after all. Water sip. Cheney sips too. Like the repetition panel: we all drink at once. Supreme Court justices have their hands folded in their lap. Do they ever get up to applaud? I cannot see. They probably do not. Ah, I see now. They sit there, seemingly dispassionately.
Uh-oh, switch to terrorists. Guarding the homeland (must we use that term? it’s so . . . Nazi!). “To win the war on terror, we must take the fight to the enemy.” Uh-oh. Is he going to drop the “Iran” bomb? “The enemy knows the days of comfortable sanctuary . . . are long over.” Now he’s listing accomplishments of anti-terrorist activity, uncovering plots . . . we owe thanks for those who dedicate their lives to finding the terrorists and stopping them. “Shoreless ambitions of the enemy,” we’re constantly at war, he says. Well, it’s a reassertion of the state of exception. The room is quite as Bushie is giving a lengthy description of “the terrorists.” They want to spread their “totalitarian ideology.” He’s moved on to discuss Shia and Sunni extremists . . . “wicked purposes,” they want to kill Americans.
“. . . it remains the policy of this government . . . to find these enemies and protect the American people,” via any means necessary. Aye, my hand is getting tired. Condoleezza looks like an alien. She needs some sleep or something. Well, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, it sounds like a build up: all this chat about evil and wicked “enemies” coming to kill us. So, is there a specific policy proposal coming? Now it’s the greatness of Afghanistan and Iraq and their democratic reforms. Hoo-hah. Oh, I see: the enemies are adjusting their strategies as a result of these successes. Ok, so what you gonna do? Is this the rationale for “the surge?”
Pelosi is blinking way too much. She must be upset.
Cheney doesn’t blink at all. Perhaps is black and soulless, unfeeling heart.
Yeah, he was building up for the Surge. Here comes the case: clearing and securing neighborhoods, the city, and taking out the “roaming death squads.” The language sounds like a Hollywood script: roaming death squad. Why don’t they pull in Willie to write them an “Old Shoe” song?
An odd thing: if you focus on Bush, Pelosi begins to resemble (out of focus) Laura, it’s like Laura up there supporting him. This is odd—some preconscious appeal . . . she should be making bad faces, you know, for subliminal effect. What if Laura and Georgie are fighting? The political unconscious is at work there: of course they are, Laura is that American Public that supported this Bozo. The figure of Laura is very important to the imaginary of this presidency (duh, of course), but especially to this speech. I wonder if this is in HD? Everyone’s noses look runny and red . . . pissy democratic faces around with the comment we need to succeed in Iraq.
Ok, I’m getting worn out. It’s like a broken record . . over and over the same yah yah. I’m getting a headache, literally. Cider is empty. Boo. How did people do it in Lincoln’s time? Didn’t their butts get sore sitting on tree stumps or whatever?
Something about nuclear weapons—I missed it. I was becoming embodied to myself. Oh, it’s Korea. Team America was not as funny as I thought it would be, but I liked the “America! Fuck yeah!” song, that was pretty good.
Commitment to HIV/AIDS eradication; Bush has a good record on that I recall. 1.2 Billion for malaria. Good call. Yeah, the justices are sitting all stoic like. Makes you to go tease them, like one of those stuffy British soldiers with the funny hats.
Heroic kindness . . . oh, here comes the show and tell. This is a new innovation in State of the Unions. We started seeing it in Reagan’s speeches, but Clinton really amped it up in his “town meeting” shout-outs to folks. Now it’s standard in all State of the Unions. Someone up in the gallery—sitting next to Laura. At some point there’s going to be a solider with his arm blown off or something.
“Baby Einstein” company . . . a shout out to an entrepreneur. Yehaw, “you too can do it!” Up with Oprah y’all! There are no structural impediments to your success! Who next? Oh, to Harlem. Nice, follow the lily-white lady with a black hero. Guy saved someone’s life—he’s clearly moved for the recognition. Blowing kisses and glad-handing like crazy. Oh! Here’s the blown up soldier! I knew there would be one—although it’s his legs. Doh—but he just stood up. Clap clap. Sorry dude, it does suck but, don’t you feel a bit, er, odd at this particular State of the Union?
He’s wrapping up . . here’s the pitch: “state of the union is strong.”
Ok, television off, pee break, a summation, then I’ll post.
Hmm. So with a tinkle-time to reflect, my summation of the speech is this: (a) it wasn’t terribly good, seemed even to veer into apologia territory—in tone, especially; (b) the women were really doing a lot of red, while the men’s ties were much more muted, suggesting—interestingly and I think I could argue convincingly—a admission of symbolic castration; (c) Bush is thinking about his legacy, and he/his handlers were playing the race card by trotting out all those people of color (and especially in terms of the immigration reform stuff); (d) there was a palpable sense of “it’s over.”
As the words of our political speeches get less and less important, it would seem (initially) that image politics are more important: the dress, the lapel pins, Bush’s little mouth, the Laura presence, the color red, and so on. Yet tone was important tonight, and more communicative. The tone was subdued and somewhat deferent. The imagery communicated a tone—one that elevated the feminine in respect to “power” and one that muted the masculine. Oh, it’s 9:17—must post.