Tom Clyde: Sorry State of the Union
January 31, 2014
A final note on Sundance: Probably nobody was more surprised than me to learn that the movie "Wetlands" had absolutely nothing to do with ducks. Somewhere, deep in the belly of the Sundance beast, it’s somebody whose job to find the most disgusting movie of the year, and then screen it in a house of worship. It’s their way of showing their appreciation for letting them disrupt our town for two weeks. Nice work, folks.
The big news story of the week was the State of the Union address. This annual circus gives the President a chance to address Congress to lay out his goals for the coming year and report on progress. Given that framework, I would have thought he could cover all it in about a five minutes. He went on for over an hour.
It was yet another lovely speech from the president. The first half was full of rainbows and unicorns, and a recitation of all the wonderful things that have been accomplished in the last year. He described a country so utopian that I would like to visit there, if not actually live there. It turns out he was talking about the US. Polling shows the nation is deeply discouraged, doubtful that the economy is actually improving much, and despairing of government’s ability to do anything about anything. Obama seemed to be basking in the glow of five years of success that only he can see.
During the second half of the speech, I kind of faded out and began to play solitaire on the iPad, load the dishwasher, and rummage through the freezer just in case there was ice cream in there I had missed on the six previous searches. He set out a list of things he wanted Congress to act on. These where things like immigration reform, minimum wage increases, tax reform, and a bunch of other stuff that will not happen unless a meteor strikes the Capitol and wipes out the entire Congress.
The State of the Union is not a place to swing low. But if he had been realistic about what this worthless Congress is capable of doing, he would have encouraged them to turn the lights out when they leave the room, and always wash their hands after going potty. Anything beyond that is really beyond their abilities. Congress has been on strike for 5 years. They show up for work fewer than 3 days a week. Knowing there is no chance that the other house of Congress will act on it, the House and Senate each pass highly partisan bills that are the playground equivalent of saying the other party has Cooties. They have passed very little legislation, and most of that deals with emergencies like naming post office buildings around the country. This is not a group that is going to rewrite the tax code. Nor should we trust them to.
Once I zoned out on the actual content (remembering Mark Twain’s great line that "no sinner was ever saved after 20 minutes"), it was fun to watch John Boehner’s face. At times, he appeared to be suffering the dry heaves. It’s clear that nothing is going to get done in the next year. There is an election in November, so everything now is about posturing. Posturing not so much for the general election, but to help members of the House withstand primary challenges from candidates who are even more extreme than the crazy incumbents. You gerrymandered your bed, Congressman, now sleep in it.
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He glossed over important stuff. There was a brief reference to the NSA surveillance program. It was very brief, and didn’t sound like there was any meaningful reform there, except maybe trying to find a way to do it in secret again. He spoke at length about the sacrifices of the men and women in the military who are getting killed or maimed in Afghanistan. There was no explanation of why, or what the mission there was or is. I wanted to hear an explanation of why it will be OK to pack up and leave that dung heap in December, but isn’t OK to pack up and leave tomorrow. Tell me what we won that justifies those sacrifices.
He completely failed to address the Velveeta shortage, which is threatening to ruin Super Bowl celebrations all over the country. So what if we are able to produce enough natural gas to be energy independent. Where’s the Velveeta?
Finally, Utah’s own Sen. Mike Lee gave the Tea Party response to the speech. That would have been quality entertainment. But in the end, Lee was afforded all the gravitas he deserves, and couldn’t find air time even on deep cable news channels. His speech is on YouTube with the skateboard tricks.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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