by Elizabeth Hemmerdinger | bio

On Monday night I listened to George Bush deliver his final State of the Union address.

The speech was so full of hogwash it’s difficult to imagine why anyone would pay the slightest bit of attention. But there I sat, as another hour of my life drifted by, an hour I can’t get back.

I kept hoping Bush would say something new and transforming. He is, after all, President of the United States of America. But, no, Bush showed himself to be the same stubborn man repeating the same tired story. Smug, too. Still smug after countless errors. Still smug after the debacle in New Orleans when his team was unable to cope with natural disaster. Still smug in the face of the manmade subprime mortgage financial crisis. Still smug after countless dead and maimed Americans and Iraqis.

Want a look at the real state of the union? The Campaign for America’s Future put together a handy compendium of statistics about where our nation finds itself today.

You’ll find, among many other facts, that since 2000, 5 million more Americans are living in poverty; 3 million manufacturing jobs have been lost; gasoline prices have risen more than 98 percent; home heating oil has risen more than 142 percent; and 8.5 million more people are without health insurance. The median income has fallen, and there were 68 percent more home foreclosures in the past year alone. And that’s just the beginning.

Smugness is an equal opportunity trait. I listened to former President Bill Clinton being smug and destructive last week — and if I had missed one comment, the media was sure to give me a thousand opportunities to hear him say divisive, destructive, repellent things, playing the soundbites over and over again. Who needs his bluster and over-talking — or the media’s?

And that includes the talking heads — did you see Chris Matthews apologize for his comments against Sen. Hillary Clinton? He didn’t address the inherent sexism in politics; rather, he talked about talking too fast. What is it with these guys?

And let’s not even mention the names of other sexist, ageist people who are assailing Clinton. Their misogyny has no place in this campaign.

With most political coverage focusing on the personalities and the horse race, not the issues, we have to block out the noise and listen very carefully to the candidates themselves. Look at their statements and demand specifics. We must use our vote, our voice to get this country back on track.

Our economy is in trouble. We need someone to fix it — someone who understands our nation down to its molecular structure and who understands the economics on which we live or die.

We’ve lost respect all around the world. We need a president people everywhere will take seriously. What we don’t need is more blustery rhetoric, either by the president, the former president, or those who aspire to deliver the next State of the Union address in 2009.

We’ve got to pay careful attention to what these candidates have done — and what they intend to do, starting on their first day in office. Rhetoric can be glorious, but it won’t keep us safe. And it won’t repair the economic foundation we teeter on right now or the social tapestry that barely covers us as a nation.

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  • Julia January 30, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Right on. It’s amazing how Bush can’t even rise to such a solemn occasion as the State of Union. He still talked as if he was a defensive cowboy — leaning up on the podium, smirking, laughing at the inappropriate times …. What is it in the psychology of the nation that would could elect such an unstable patriarch for 8 years as President?
    What blows me away about Obama, beyond his ideas, is simply his sensitivity. He is not only a new generation, but new definition of masculinity. It’s about time.