January 29, 2014
SOTU: Tuned Out, Turned Off, Dropped Out
Susan D. Harris
In my house, we watch the State of the Union no matter what we think of the president. This year, however, you could count me out. I wasn’t in the mood for another page from Obama’s old KUBARKTorture Manual.
My 80 year-old mother decided to solider through it. God bless her, I don’t think she’s ever missed one since she learned to walk. The woman who banned anything even close to a cuss word as we were growing up could be heard muttering, “Dirty, lying bastard,” as she listened to the Lord of the Manor address his serfs. She thought no one heard.
Meanwhile in the other room, I was contemplating Mozart’s “Clarinet Concerto in A Major.” As the radio station paused between pieces, I could hear Obama’s booming voice in the other room. He was in “down home” cadence, talking to the “folks.” His voice became cowboy feisty as he proclaimed, “The debate is settled, climate change is a fact!” I assume he stuck his tongue out after that, but I couldn’t see him. Luckily, Turkish pianist Fazil Say’s “Istanbul Symphony” drifted from the radio, and the waves slowly overtook Obama’s voice, drowning him out. I was at peace again.
Later I craved comfort food. I stirred Nesquick into some milk, chuckling as I remembered a cashier who told me her kids thought powdered chocolate instead of syrup was “gross.” I was proud to be concentrating on this instead of Obama’s School of Dramatic Arts.
Finally it was over, and I walked near the TV just in time to hear George Will doing his best Will Rogers and reciting a nursery rhyme as he gave his reaction to the president’s speech. Every time I see George Will, I feel I’m in a time warp…swept back thirteen years and Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts are lurking under the round table.
I wondered what would happen if we just fired everyone in the Capitol, recruited random people, and started with a clean slate. “It would have to be an improvement,” I said to myself.
“So what did the president say?” I asked my mother. “He was probably forty minutes into the speech before he even mentioned healthcare,” she said. “He doesn’t have a leg to stand on. Otherwise it was the usual Democrat ‘onward, upward, glittering generalities’ speech.”
I walked out of the room and could hear Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers giving the rebuttal. Her voice was strong, animated, and solid. I walked back in to look at the TV and saw a woman sitting on a prop couch from “That 70s Show” and looking like she trained as Dorothy Hamill’s backup for the 1976 Olympics. My mind wandered, “Why do the men get a podium when they give the rebuttal but Rep. Rodgers had to sit in a living room looking like she was telling the kids to be home by midnight?”
The talking heads afterward said her rebuttal was great, but it was clearly laid back and “not an attack on the president” they said. “Six years with a country sinking like a ship from the White Star Line maneuvering the North Atlantic and the Republicans are still being nice and pulling their punches,” I sighed.
Frank Luntz’s focus group didn’t like the president taking so much power and promising to go it alone with executive orders. “I hope the president is listening,” Luntz said. “Yeah, I’m sure he’s glued to the screen,” I chortled.
Then I heard about Obama’s new gal, myRA. “Wonderful,” I thought, “A new retirement savings plan that will probably work about as well as healthcare.gov and keep everyone in a perpetual state of confusion and distraction. Sure to keep everyone from talking about things like…Benghazi.”
Megyn Kelly came on and did her usual smooth emcee job: transitioning between serious, perky, funny and sexy — and I did my usual transitioning between thinking she’s either one of the best hard-hitting newswomen on TV or the most annoying tease from the high school cheerleading squad.
I called it a night and crawled into bed, thankful that I was warm as the frost crept up my window pane; a thin sheet between me and wind chill below zero. I was thankful we had enough heating oil — for now — and that we didn’t heat with propane. I thought about all the people suffering in this country while the president was allowed to come out and pile the horse manure just a few feet higher. I only wished those Native American dream catchers really filtered out the bad ones.