Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Tuesday, January 28, 2003  

So the big news is the State of the Union Address. Will he or won't he make them love him again? Will his moral clarity clarify their feelings? Will they feel a rush of patriotism for the war on Iraq? Will they agree that the wealthy need lotsa dough to get this country moving again?

I have some thoughts.

To warm up, musings on what he'll say. The Bush rhetorical style is one that seeks to accomplish three goals, all of them as predictable as the rain in Portland. At the center, diffuse patriotic warm-fuzzies. This pleases everyone (or at least the 90% who responded to them after 9/11). It is also impossible to rebut. Thus we'll see cutaways to Dashle and Pelosi (not to mention Lieberman, Edwards, Gephardt, and Kerry) applauding dutifully.

Next, he'll lard the speech with buzzwords to appease the fantatics on the right. This is the Southern Strategy writ wide. The coded speech satisfies small constituents who understand the actual meaning of the words, while to Mr. and Mrs. Main Street, they sound like more diffuse warm fuzzies (see above). This means Bush will boldly stand against "quotas," while being for "choice" in schools. He'll dance around his "stimulus" package as a way to put money in the pockets of "average taxpayers" so that they (that's you, Ma and Pa Main Street) can get out there and start spending again. And on and on.

Finally, he'll put most of the force of his speech behind the attack on Iraq, natch. That's the rainmaker. The one bit of intrigue is how he'll package this, tricky as it has become. Expect him to hammer on Hans Blix's report and to scrupulously avoid mention of Kim Jong Ill, Osama bin Laden, or aluminum tubes.

The bigger question isn't what he'll say, but rather, what the media will say about it. If he fails to convince Brokaw, Jennings, and Rather, expect the public to give it the thumbs down. For the first time in his life, those media watchers will have raised the bar ever so slightly on what they expect from him. This isn't a harmless little prince doodling with his big toe in the sand, anymore. Rome may soon be burning. Bush learned that you can turn the force of fear against your opponents to great effect. (Ask the scorched, simpering Dems for a comment on that.) But now the fear has been stoked, and Bush is in serious danger of a backdraft.

Who can say? We'll be watching.

posted by Jeff | 1:13 PM |
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