Wednesday, January 26, 2011


First of all, I sure hope the seating arrangement was a one-time gimmick; it spoiled most of the fun of the thing. Beyond that, and leaving aside whatever policy stuff was in there and just thinking of a critique of the language employed, all I can come up with would be:

Top Ten Reasons For The "Quality" Of Tonight's State of the Union Speech

10. Part of complex, sneaky plan to lower expectations for 2012 debates, convention speech.

9. WH planns to write speech over weekend thwarted by Oxygen Channel's "Buffy" Marathon (and can you blame them?).

8. Once speechwriters realized it was going to be the same day as the Oscar nomination, they knew no one would be listening anyway.

7. Actually, an academic team convinced CoS Daley to substitute cheezy, soporific speech for normal speech as part of a study of partisan responses to innocuous rhetoric.

6. Gotcha! Obama, like Jimmy James, celebrates April Fool's Day on randomly selected day to catch people totally unaware. Also, Anna Eshoo and Ben Quayle both got slimed when president asked them trick question designed to elicit "I don't know."

5. Weird. Mirror universe Obama SOTU totally awesome, leads to solutions within six years for climate change, cancer, and budget problems. Also puts American on Mars in ten years, which begins a chain of events in which earth is conquered by Romulans.

4. White House read Gallup table in Ezra Klein's blog, rationally decided to blow off SOTU to prepare for elaborate staff Super Bowl pool.

3. You know when Jeannie had a cold and blinked wrong and Major Nelson's moon trip got all screwy? It was something like that.

2. Incredibly advanced scientific methodology discovered key swing, tipping point voter for 2012 is this one woman in Cincinnati, who really, really, loves bland crap like that. And of course has a thing for salmon jokes.

1. Every good line in every Democratic President's SOTU from 1961 through last year? All written by Ted Sorensen.


  1. In many ways Obama is a terrific President, but I can never shake the impression that he is far too reliant on intellectuals, and last night was no exception. Does anyone else envision Obama giving a directive to his sterling-credentialed speechwriters, to make a compelling case to close America's growing technological achievement gap?

    One of the smartypants in the room would have pointed out that, in a similar situation, Eisenhower channeled Sputnik to call America to scientific action...'great!' says another, we'll have a "Sputnik moment", and none of the slobs in flyover country will think we're being too clever by half.

    Even better, says a third, I read that South Korea has better broadband coverage than America, and even though Korea is a tiny, densely populated peninsula with a strong central government, Americans (who live in a nation with vast empty stretches of land and a - relatively - decentralized government) will be as threatened by that development as they were by that first Soviet satellite! (Good one, fellas!)

    This blog has discussed the impact of staff inexperience on Clinton's early WH years. In a strange way, though, picking outsiders may have been a strength, as it may have avoided the pretentiousness that only intellectuals can muster. Seriously, 'Sputnik moment'? Does anyone imagine a guy like James Carville signing off on that crap?

  2. Gosh, I had no problem with the SOTU. Its rhetorical purpose was to define Obama as the adult supervision in the upcoming congressional food fight, and it did so.

  3. The speech was a calculated attempt to send a message, to wit that the Republic, while not quite flourishing as it ought, is far enough removed from the precipice for ceremonial boilerplate to be the appropriate rhetorical stance.

    It appears to have succeeded.

  4. I've read a lot of SOTU commentary, and I haven't seen a single mention of Obama's geographical gaffe - 'Countries in Europe and Russia'. It's remarkably similar to Palin's rumored confusion over whether Africa is a country or a continent. It has gone strangely unremarked.

  5. David,

    Huh. Well, if parsed as "(Countries in Europe) and Russia, which isn't entirely in Europe" then it's correct, right? (Or more likely, the sets are Europe with and without Russia.) It also seems to be used elsewhere so maybe is sorta standard?

  6. @Bijan Parsia

    You're right. Thanks for clearing that up for me.

    I think of 'Russia' as a European country, whose Asiatic possessions are no more a part of it than British India was a part of Britain. But that's not standard these days, so Obama was right and I was wrong.


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