The great dismal swamp: a sloppy hot take on the State of the Union address

Out of some combination of tradition, residual civic interest, desire to know what’s being served to the mass man in the political veal pen these days, and general gravitation towards television as a narcotic in an otherwise smothering home environment, I watched Barry O’s last big chit-chat with Congress. It was a meretricious jumble of platitudes, contradictions, lies, and pandering, a speech much worse than it sounded.

That’s the inherently slippery thing about State of the Union speeches, and really about much political oratory in the United States today: it’s all too fucking scripted and smooth. Because the politicians delivering these grandiose orations are so polished, the overall effect is intellectually soporific. It’s all about the music, not the lyrics: a terrible way for an electorate to evaluate and choose its representatives, but Hillary Clinton just beclowned herself with a pandering sort of line dance on Ellen, so it could be worse.

It could always be worse. That Hillary is losing ground to the Bern and the Republican establishment smoothies have been left in the dust by the Donald are both hopeful indications of a national political reawakening, insofar as the public has become fed up with scripted scumbags who try to feed them shit sandwiches with a straight face. Sanders and Trump are both more credible impromptu speakers than their rivals. Shit, Hillary now has her sinecurist of a daughter backing her up in a sputtering attack on Bernie’s proposal to expand Medicare to all ages, as if a consistent stand in support of socialized medicine is a liability in a Democratic primary. Hillary herself was for socialized medicine before she was against it. So was Barack Obama, after a fashion, anyway: the ACA is the half-assed, kludgy, inequitable simulacrum of single-payer that he had corporate lobbyists craft to split the difference between his voters, who lean strongly towards single-payer, and the pharmaceutical, hospital, and insurance companies that have been bribing both major parties wholesale. Now Hillary is smearing Bernie’s plan to expand Medicare (an established, proven single-payer system) to all ages as an insult to the sitting president. It’s about Barry’s feels, you see, not about the viable delivery of rudimentary constituent services, and Bernie is shitting on the legacy of this neoliberal huckster for proposing to replace the notorious fascist kludge of Obamacare by expanding a more effective and popular single-payer system that has been in place for the elderly for decades.

Wow Such heritage Much foundation Many shrew Most pajamaboy Omg gettalking So mandate Very deductibles.

Such narcissistic.

The entire structure of the State of the Union address is designed for maximum presidential narcissism. There isn’t even anyone to slam the door in the President’s face, as there is at Parliament for the Queen’s Speech. No matter how insipid, misleading, outright dishonest, immoral, or otherwise wrong the address is, sacred Congressional etiquette dictates that all present listen politely. Only occasionally does a Congressman (usually a nasty one) figure, all right, boss, you’re in our House now, so if you’re talking rubbish, I’ll cry rubbish. Joe Wilson shouting “You lie!” at Obama was almost universally condemned among the chattering classes as a much worse offense than Obama himself going before Congress to bullshit both houses and the American public without allowing anyone a right of reply.

We should at least implement the partial fix of having the President holler his word over a suitably loud audio loop of Meghan Trainor’s “Your Lips are Movin’.” The speech would be shorter that way.

These fuckers get an hour or so each January to badger Congress with whatever meretricious pandering they would like to misrepresent as relevant to the state of the Union. This very phrase, which should be respectable, has been cheapened to hell by its use in this insipid context. The reason why presidents these days deliver this constitutionally mandated report to Congress as a speech, not in writing, is that Woodrow Wilson rather enjoyed hearing himself talk. Some of the ones we’ve had more recently have really fucking enjoyed listening to themselves talk. At the 1988 Democratic National Convention, Bill Clinton got cheers for the words “in conclusion….” He has the social proof to run his mouth to no end these days as an ex-president, not a future president, but consider that cheering sarcastically as a sick burn is about as close as a modern American audience dares get to criticizing a podium hog for being an impertinent, self-important blowhard.

Although I wasn’t listening very closely, several of Obama’s comments in this particular speech struck me, either immediately at the time or after they were brought to my attention by other observers, as brazenly wrongheaded. In no particular order, they were these:

Immingrants don’t depress wages; corporate boardroom machinations do. Dafuq? All wage scales in all jobs are centrally planned by nefarious corporate directors? In that case, I’m Lee Iacocca. No multimillionaire scheming to bust unions from a conference room in Bentonville is sending top-secret e-mails to socially climbing householders in Bethesda and Corona del Mar instructing them to assemble contingent household staffs exclusively from Latin America’s peasant diaspora for $8-10 an hour under the table. These bougie shitbirds are perfectly competent to make these aggressively dyscivic hiring decisions on their own. Everyone’s doing it, after all, and the peer pressure to shut out the native working class in favor of an unenfranchised foreign lumpenproletariat conveniently aligns with their own economic self-interest.

This is just one example of the pervasive, antisocially selfish attitudes that perpetuate the unacculturated Latin helot class within the US. There isn’t a cabal of several thousand obscenely wealthy corporate overlords and their mercenary lieutenants forcing evilly stingy wage scales for the help on a civic-minded haute bourgeoisie whose own morality is as pure as the driven snow. Obama probably figures, though, that his audience is too solipsistic to notice this sleight of hand, and as disgusting as it is to say this, I suspect he’s right.

We killed bin Laden Murica fuck yeah. Verbatim: “If you doubt America’s commitment — or mine — to see that justice is done, ask Osama bin Laden.” The frail, diabetic old geezer outlived his usefulness to the CIA, so we offed him, in the same way that “we” “tortured some folks.” An extrajudicial assassination by a military hit squad in another nation’s sovereign territory (and in the very city hosting its national military academy, at that) is now justice. A criminal indictment and an international arrest warrant is, like, so 9/10.

What in hell has happened to us as a people to believe such a thing? The bin Laden hit gave the Pakistani deep state the reciprocal privilege to have one of its own hit squads chopper in to West Point, Annapolis, or Colorado Springs and whack anyone causing it ongoing butthurt by his very survival. This is infeasible for geopolitical reasons, so the ISI (care for a second S, sir-ji?) will continue sponsoring international terrorism against random innocents associated with the United States instead, and against American military personnel deployed in the vicinity of its old boys, the Taliban.

Two-dollar gas is some cool shit, amirite? Someone else noticed that this bit of pocketbook pandering was inserted randomly into a speech that included extensive braying about anthropogenic climate change, the urgency of domestic and international action on clean energy, and so forth. The first thing Americans do when the price of gas falls is start buying new gas guzzlers so that they can either protect their precious snowflakes from their fellow aggressive drivers or make proper drugstore cowboys of themselves. From an environmental or national security context, falling gas prices are bad news in the medium and long term because financial pain is the only thing that stops Americans from frivolously buying jacked-up highway tanks that they absolutely do not need for any practical reason. I’m deliberately excluding farmers, ranchers, loggers, construction contractors, and the like, because they aren’t wankers. These legit tradesmen are, however, used as cover for every dipshit buying an Escalade or a jacked-up crew cab F-350 “for the extra storage space,” when her real goal is to roll out into intersections, blocking the view for whatever sorry bastard is trying to merge into cross-traffic in a Civic (thanks, bitch), or when his real goal is to have a mounting platform for truck nuts. (The pronouns used here have been chosen consciously.) Jimmy Carter scared the bejesus out of his left-leaning successors when he came down with sweater malaise, so straight talk about what ordinary, middle-class-and-up American voters are doing to aggravate the environmental and geopolitical damage of birthright motoring is out of the question.

There’s also the false modesty of an unimaginably well-connected multimillionaire with a personal 747 and flight crew available on demand 24/7 pretending to care about the price of gas. This is laughble. It will continue, of course, for as long as a majority of voters continue to believe against all evidence that their elected officials are socioeconomically mainstream and normal, i.e., like themselves. Believing that sort of patronizing horseshit is like believing Bill Gates when he says that he just found a really good deal on three-week advance-purchase coach airfare from Sea-Tac to the Quad Cities, via Atlanta, and isn’t that really cool. We’re the stupid motherfuckers here, though; the President’s men know their audience.

Please pass the TPP so that China stops pulling monkey business to steal our jobs. God. That asswipe won’t stop twisting arms to cede US sovereignty to transnational fascist kangaroo courts. I was horrified that this particular berating earned Obama even weak applause, but at least no one jumped in before he had finished his thoughts in a bid to be the first nose at his bunghole, and the hearty cheering for some of his other comments was absent, so there’s some hope.

What’s going on here is surprisingly easy to infer from the history of the Clintons’ emeritus presidency. Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea have milked their power for speaking and other sinecure fees totaling over a hundred million dollars since they vacated the White House. There is a very strong circumstantial case that much of this money has been post-hoc bribery for Bill’s signing the repeal of Glass-Steagall, unleashing the banks to wreak havoc on anyone and anything in their path. The banks are paying Bill and Hillary off as a quid pro quo for Bill’s corruption of the presidency for their institutional benefit.

Rod Blagojevich never did anything a tenth as corrupt or a thousandth as destructive.

Barack Obama is almost certainly trying to uphold his end of an equivalent bribery agreement with multinational corporations. There’s no other explanation for his whining about the need to pass TPP. Nobody fucking voted for him so that the country could be thrust into another dog-ass trade deal that makes NAFTA look like child’s play.

We have the best military in the whole wide world because we spend more on defense than the next eleventy billion countries combined. Yeah, we spend it on crooks like Fat Leonard. That’s where the money goes. And to deathtrap fighters and light transports, while Russian aerospace manufacturers gain ground on their US competitors in every subsector (including commercial passenger aircraft, their great weakness from about 1960 to 2010). The real purpose of US defense spending is to avoid breaking the rice bowls of proletarian fuck-ups in uniform, defense contractors, and their clients in engineering and the skilled trades. It isn’t the defense of the territory and government of the United States of America in any legitimate, honest sense.

We’re the most powerful, respected nation on earth. No one looks to Russia or China for leadership. LOL. I’m impressed to learn that the Shenzhen Metro consortium, which built and is now operating the Addis Ababa light rail system, is an American company. You learn something new every day.

Are we governed by a man who is actually so idiotic as to believe that China and Russia do not have significant international spheres of influence? Hearing these comments is like hearing FDR crow that Germany holds no significant foreign territory while a radio in the corner plays a news bulletin from the Battle of Stalingrad. We’re either a nation of stupid bastards being led by a straight-faced liar or a nation of stupid bastards being led by one of our own. It’s probably the former; see the TPP section above.


There’s something deeply wrong with mainstream reporters and anchors–intellectually, morally, aesthetically, spiritually–for treating this garbage as captivating statesmanship. It’s such an embarrassing spectacle that it would be much more respectable for the Washington press corps and its editors to be craven mercenaries, cynical to the bone, than to feel a genuine interest in this wholesale public corruption as a continuation of the American tradition of statesmanship and to regard covering it as a sort of soulcraft.

Any Washington insider who goes on television and blurts out, “Jesus Christ, they’re nothing but a bunch of fucking liars,” would be the closest thing to an American Vaclav Havel since Jimmy Carter, at least. Fuck the FCC and its whinging preciousness. True indecency is too savvy to cuss.

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