So it seems that Tom Friedman isn’t happy with the State of the Union speech that he’s likely to get; he decided to play make believe and write his own speech for Bush to read. If I recall correctly, this routine has been part of Friedman’s schtick for a few years; the whole thing seems more than just a bit self-important to me, but then, so does the State of the Union speech. Friedman’s idea, it seems, is that Bush should suddenly change into an alternative energy crank (or perhaps skip halfway steps and just suddenly change into Tom Friedman); and that he should use the bully pulpit to expound his newfound faith and lay down a Kennedyesque challenge to the American energy industry. (If he does not jawbone us about Friedman’s pet cause, apparently, you can
stick a fork in the Bush Presidency.) So here’s what he’s informed Mr. Bush he’d like to hear tonight:
My fellow Americans, on May 25, 1961, President Kennedy gave an extraordinary State of the Union address in which he called on the nation to marshal all of its resources to put a man on the Moon. By setting that lofty goal, Kennedy was trying to summon all our industrial and scientific talent, and a willingness to sacrifice financially, to catch up with the Soviet Union, which had overtaken America in the field of large rocket engines.
While we cannot guarantee that we shall one day be first,Kennedy said,we can guarantee that any failure to make this effort will make us last.
I come to you this evening with a similar challenge. President Kennedy was worried about the threat that communism posed to our way of life. I am here to tell you that if we don’t move away from our dependence on oil and shift to renewable fuels, it will change our way of life for the worse — and soon — much, much more than communism ever could have. Making this transition is the calling of our era. …
… and so on, and so forth.
Well, I have my own ideas about what’s important. So I humbly submit my own speech for Mr. Bush to consider giving tonight. I know that this is last minute, but it would be surprisingly easy for him to memorize. And I think it’s important. If Mr. Bush steps up to this challenge, the speech could be a new beginning for our country. If he doesn’t, you can stick a fork in this administration. It will be done — because it will have abdicated leadership on the biggest issue of our day. So here’s the speech I’ll be listening for tonight:
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Cheney, members of Congress, fellow Americans…
Anything else is just going to mean more of the same old bullshit.
Just remember: when these folks get in front of the camera they just lie. Politicians’ aims are political victory, not truth, and not justice. Hanging on the words and dickering about this or that point and fuming about this or that plain non sequitur will be talking past them entirely. You may as well spend the same amount of time cleaning your house, or sorting old photographs, or sucking on lemons.
Pointing out some piece of plain nonsense may have some value in provoking other people—the so-called rank and file, i.e., you and me—to think for a moment; and it may be worthwhile to use it to call on those other people to discourse that moves a bit beyond the braying of talking-points. But lingering on the endless talk of politicians or the professional political windbags inside the Beltway, as if these folks care what we think, or about what is true, is like trying to beat a street hustler at his three-card monty. It’s a scam. Just walk away.