The response to the Democratic response to the State of the Union

Election 2004 | Language/Structure
If the “State of the Union” was “strong”, then the Democratic response was: long… wrong… and could have been delivered better… in song.

I watched the State of the Union at Jorge Miranda’s apartment with some of the Boston 2020 Democrats. We may have snickered and hissed at various points, but overall, there was no denying that Bush had set a course for the land of virtues, from our “fighting men and women” to our “sacred institution of marriage” and the purity of drug-free professional sports.

The mistake the Democrats made was staying in virtue-land and coming down to Earth. By the time Pelosi and Daschle came on, we had exhausted the lofty rhetoric faculties of our collective craniums. To the twenty-seven people in the United States still watching, anything more said probably floated up and melded with the Presidential verbiage. What we did take away was just an image of the Democratic leadership, distant and calmly sitting in an empty, fake living room.

What the Democratic leadership should have done was to underscore the point that the President is out of touch and does not bother responding to questions by the media, or even the opposition (most recently made by Ken Auletta in his “Fortress Bush” article in last week’s New Yorker). They could have prepared a set of serios questions– starting with, how will we pay for this and cut taxes?– and published them in advance, daring the President to follow their agenda. For the answers, they should have brought in the offensive line; Ted Kennedy deserved to be part of the response team for all of the camera attention he got during the speech. Their response would begin, with reality-show (or even game-show) aplomb: “We asked the President ten questions. Only three were answered, and two of those answers were hardly worthwhile…” And there you go, a new set of talking points to carry the day.

Unless, of course, they were trying to look calm in the face of the primary candidates… (but so much for those faces. The face of John Kerry was looking ever more haggard in his response, it was like New Hampshire’s “Old Man in the Mountain”– after it had fallen).