State of the Union
MY FELLOW AMERICANS: THE STATE OF THE UNION IS . . . WELL, KIND OF SCARY
TO THE READER: The only thing more boring and pretentious than the annual State of the Union address is a writer telling the President of the United States what she/he should say. Listen, folks, I’m not telling you anything your don’t know: writers aren’t elected; they can’t run things; they don’t know diddly. And yet they can’t seem to help themselves. Because of that darned First Amendment, I can’t do anything about this monstrosity by the guy who writes this blog. I can only beg you to exercise your free will and change the channel, raid the refrigerator or walk the dog: just don’t read any further.
– Joe Biden
MADAM SPEAKER, Madam Vice President, Members of the Supreme Court, my friends on all sides of the aisle and in both chambers of the Congress of the United States; my fellow Americans and all of our fighting men and women serving throughout the globe (but not in Ukraine).
I am here to tonight to tell you that the State of the Union is ….
Well, before I get into that, I’d like to say something to members of Congress. In my long career, I’ve sat where you are sitting. And tonight, I want you to do just that: stay in those cushy seats. Don’t stand up, then sit down, then stand up, then sit down. It’s silly. It’s embarrassing, to me, to Americans and to other the nations. Besides, few of you are going to like what I’m going to say.
What did I just tell you? Sit down. And shut up!
Now, where was I?
What was that, Madam Speaker? Yes, thank you for reminding me. The annual State of the Union address. I’ve got it right here in front of me….
MY FELLOW AMERICANS, I am here tonight to report to you that the state of the union is …
Uncertain. Perilous. Endangered.
Only a little more than a year ago, in this very chamber, in one of the most hallowed buildings of our great nation, vandals, rioters and thugs tried to overthrow the peaceful transfer of power, something never attempted in the history of our great nation.
Some of them dressed up in silly costumes; some defecated on marble floors; others used the sacred American flag as a weapon; smashed windows; overpowered police; chanted about hanging the vice president; broke into the Speaker’s offices; and caused the death of Capitol police officers.
And some of you sitting in this very place shamed America by saying that these insurrectionists, these traitors, these defilers of the Constitution were just ordinary tourists, or petitioners expressing their lawful right to protest. Shame on you. You could have been wounded or killed. And yet you sided with the marauders.
The threat to our democracy did not end on Jan. 6, ladies and gentlemen. The former President of the United States, my predecessor, a man who has stood before you on this very same occasion four times, defiled the most hallowed concept of our republic: the outcome of the election. This sore loser continues to promote his Big Lie, including the absurd contradiction that the same election, which put you in the seats that you're sitting in tonight, was stolen from him - and only him.
This man is a traitor, a hoodlum, a usurper, and yet many of you in this room are afraid to speak the truth. Instead, you repeat his Big Lie; refuse to take part in an investigation to hold him accountable; and you work day in and day out to defeat bills that would protect our democratic processes.
What are you thinking?
ACROSS THIS GREAT COUNTRY, in state house after state house, legislators are working to change laws so that that millions of voters will find it harder, if not impossible, to cast ballots, and that after election day, partisans can manipulate election outcomes with which they disagree.
It seems impossible, doesn’t it.?These things belong in a truly terribly written political novel, so fantastical that no publisher would cause it to be printed.
But they are happening.
Democracy in America is on trial, tonight. And the prospects for a positive outcome are not at all assured.
DEMOCRACY IS ALSO in jeopardy across the globe.
In Ukraine, that fledgling and brave democracy is being overrun by the armies of a cynical and cruel dictator, who in the process of murdering hundreds of civilians and driving hundreds of thousands more from their homes, is threatening to unleash nuclear weapons.
And yet some of you in this room praise Vladimir Putin, and that former president, my predecessor, praises him as smart and cunning and strong. Imagine supporting a monster, who earlier interfered with our own elections, and now would threaten the survival of civilization by starting a nuclear holocaust.
There are concerning issues here at home. Inflation, the highest in decades, is undermining the finances of millions of American households. If we are gaining on the Covid pandemic, the disease is still killing thousands of our mothers, fathers, children, grandfathers and grandmothers, and children may have lost forever key portions of their educations.
Thousands of Americans have no homes, and millions of others use far to many of the their hard-earned dollars to pay ever higher rents. Home ownership, once the centerpiece of the American dream, is now a fantasy for many families whose living standards will never equal those of their parents.
Race remains the central sin of American society. We have fought our bloodiest war, demonstrated in the streets, enacted laws and yet we are still mired in hatred and violence because not all of us look the same.
Our gravest danger is a changing environment, caused by man-made gasses, and which already has unleashed Biblical wildfires, hurricanes, floods and rising sea levels. And yet the nations of the world, our own included, do almost nothing to reverse this catastrophe.
SO, MY FELLOW AMERICANS, the state of the union is indeed uncertain, perilous, endangered.
But ours also is a time of great hope. And opportunity.
This is a unique moment in history when we can accomplish great things.
Of all nations, we are far from helpless. To the contrary, our heritage is one of great deeds, inspired ideas, remarkable innovation and miraculous invention. It is our optimism that draws people to our shores and calls generation after generation to reform and improve America.
We have it in our power to defend and protect democracy, to rejuvenate our economy, to oppose dictators abroad and authoritarians at home. We can slow and reverse climate changes. We can defeat racism and hatred.
None of this is easy. But all of it is possible.
Look, folks, democracy is unsettling, unruly and frustrating. But it is also thrilling, exciting and exhilarating.
We are a free people, and because we vote, we have choices.
It is our privilege, in this time and in this place, to be the custodians of the means bequeathed by our forefathers and mothers to create the kind of society envisioned in the Declaration of Independence and in an evolving Constitution.
So tonight, my fellow Americans, it is my great honor to report to you on the state of our nation.
And it is this:
The state of the nation is in your hands.
DEMOCRATS: BASHING ‘OLD JOE’ WON'T DEFEAT THE TRUMP-CRAZED GOP
By Brian C. Jones
IF IT’S MONDAY, it must be beat up Joe Biden Day.
Wait it a minute, wasn’t that yesterday? Sunday is the day they have the pundit TV shows that nobody watches, and it's the day that newspapers offer their most thoughtful editorials.
Actually, when it comes to Biden bashing, any day will do.
Bothered by what’s going up at the pump? Immigration got you down? Tanks rolling into Ukraine? Retreat in Afghanistan? Agenda stalled in Congress? Too (much/ little) action on climate change?
Must be Joseph Robinette Biden's at work again.
Is your toilet backed up? Has it snowed too (much/ little) this winter? Didn’t like how “Ozark” ended its latest season? And how come that dog runs away when she’s off-leash?
But Joe doesn't do all of this by himself. The Old Guy has plenty of help from the Silly Left. You know, the Lefties, those crazed, over-the-top, impractical “woke” lunkheads, who want their party, among other things, to keep promises made to Blacks. They sound ridiculous, I know.
Carville for months has been warning Democrats against being defined by their Left wing, which he mocks as “faculty lounge” losers, who are out of touch with the real America, and who talk all that “woke” nonsense. Carville delights in scolding them: “People don’t like you.”
Axelrod says Biden should stop talking like “the voice of the government” (ignoring the fact that Biden IS the President) and, instead, he should go back to speaking like Joe from Scranton, using “the language of America, not Washington.”
Greenberg says Democrats should not “present themselves as the party of Obama,” because “Obama did not give voice to the hurt and anger that working class voters were feeling,” which ignores the fact that Obama ended the Great Recession and was elected twice. Still, Greenberg says the first president of color didn’t prosecute the bankers.
This Biden-bashing and the lashing of the Left has been going on since Joe rescued democracy in 2020 by winning 7-million more votes than Donald Trump, thus driving him from the White House.
Again, these critics who are going after Joe & Co. aren't Trump-crazed Republicans . They are fellow Democrats, and supposedly anti-Trump pundits, and they've been on a tear for months.
THE 'OLD HACKS' - As Maureen Dowd christened her panel of political experts: James Carville, David Axelrod and Stan Greenberg
THEY MEAN WELL. They're terrified – just like the rest of us – by the prospect of a Trump-poisoned Republican Party regaining power in November, then two years later returning Old Orange to the Oval Office.
Carville at least acknowledged that he’s bewildered by how Republicans have been consumed by Trump’s madness, including their embrace of the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. He said that Democrats should remind voters that everything bothering them now will be worse under Republican rule.
But what bothers me is that the Biden blamers never seem to have anything useful to say:
Don’t be so out of touch. Don’t boast. Herald your successes. But not too much. Sound a little more like Republicans, who are tapping into voters’ angst. Show some empathy. And avoid the Black sheep on the Left branch of the family.
In fact, as I look at the solutions offered by Dowd’s expert panel, they all suggest backing away from the party's Black activists.
Hence, Carville’s reference to “woke” Lefties. “Woke” is Republican code for people who are too enthusiastic about Blacks and not enough about about Whites. Greenberg comes right out with it: turn away from Obama, under whom “the Democratic Party has lost touch with all working people.” In political-speak, "working people" means working white people.
Trumpism has always been about race. And maybe that’s what Dowd’s old hacks are sensing – they seem worried about stirring up that ever-present, always-lurking racism that nests within all of us who are born in the USA. Best to give Black Lives Matter a rest; we’ll get back to it later.
I think it's folly to mimic Republicans and disavow the heart and soul of the Democratic Party. It's the Left that has the practical solutions to economic and climate meltdown, and Blacks surely know a thing or two abut justice.
Republicans, in contrast, are the party that says no to everything except death: Covid death, climate death and political death. To borrow from Jim Carville: nobody should like them.
ELECTION PROSPECTS do sound awful, especially for the mid-term voting in November.
It’s still February, and already 30 Democrats in Congress have turned tail and won’t even try running again. Thanks, incumbents, for abandoning the rest of us. You cowards.
Biden’s poll numbers are awful, too: Real Clear Politics average of public polls today gives him a 53.1 percent DISAPPROVE rating.
In this long, painful winter of blizzard and ice, I wish I knew what to do.
Joe Biden has terrible faults, because there's no such thing as a perfect president. And old, at 79 (and here you thought he was 78).
But if anyone asks, I’ll say this:
Bless you, Joe Biden. You stopped Trump. No one else could; no one else did. I wake up every morning celebrating how wonderful it is to have my country back, my government acting imperfectly but normally, and America trying to move forward, not backwards.
Bless the Left. I never warmed to Bernie Sanders, a fellow Vermonter. And Lefties, like the rest of us, say stupid things like “defund the police.” But you on the Left are the brains and heart of reform, which has always been America’s passion, however frustrating it turns out to be in practice.
The Green New Deal makes sense to me as a coherent and smart way to cure climate change, while creating a just economy. Fixing immigration will allow more legal entry to people eager to energize our economy and enrich our culture. And working, working, working to cure our genetic racism has always been the right thing to do.
I say this to Old Dowdy, to the Old Hacks and to all the other naysayers: shut up. Just shut up until you have something useful to offer, something that makes sense, something that will work.
And to them and to everyone, near and far, I say: please vote.
Vote for a better economy; vote for a better environment; vote for a better country; and vote for our better selves.
REALLY OLD, REALLY MAD
IT’S TIME, old people, to rescue America.
Critics, cynics and crybabies – people who can’t imagine growing up – will sneer at us, as usual.
Really, most people believe that the old ones are the planet’s most contemptible creatures.
Too slow. Wasting the time of The Young, who trapped behind us at the check-out as we fumble for exact change, only to scatter pennies on the supermarket floor, simultaneously dropping our keys, and then, sorry, also dropping our over-sized sunglasses..
We hog the high-speed lanes, stubbornly locked into the speed limit, our telltale bald domes and elephantine ears infuriatingly visible through the rear windows of our creaky Corollas and Civics.
Mumble our words, yes we do, even as we demand that the speaker repeat what he – clearly – just said.
Smelly, too. And don’t forget forgetful, as we inch toward the grave, having looted the Social Security and Medicare trust funds, leaving our grandchildren a few tattered birthday and valentine cards plucked from the discount racks at what once were known as “drug stores.”
Let’s not even discuss our most outrageous debacle, how we’ve used up the oxygen during The Covid, occupying all the ICU beds because of our pathetically “weak” immune systems, forcing everyone else to wear masks and worse, to stay home with their kids.
So what do the old ones have to offer America?
It’s a resource desperately needed to wake a nation sleep-walking into an election that could accelerate America’s descent into history’s most dangerous, cruel and frighteningly high-tech repressive regime.
UNLEASHING OLD PEOPLE’S ANGER is not my idea. Thank my old friend, Richard Donelly.
A veteran (union) actor, Donelly has had roles in numerous plays at Rhode Island’s Trinity Repertory and Gamm theaters, along with credits in TV’s “Law and Order,” and last year’s prophetic film “Don’t Look Up,” in which he played, appropriately, “Old Aide #2.”
Donelly, 75. is no ordinary starving artist. He’s also been a licensed (union) plumber, meaning that even while he pursued lofty artsy goals, as a practical matter, he could unclog your drain and put food on his table.
“Let’s start a movement. Angry Old Folk March on Washington!” Donelly said, adding a practical note that only experience can provide: “We will need rest areas and a Port-O-John every 10 yards.”
ABOUT THIS TIME, another aging savant, the environmentalist Bill McKibben, co-authored an essay in the New York Times that called on the activists of the 1960s and 70s to use their organizing experience and vast numbers to undertake new and urgent crusades.
“We need older people returning to the movement politics they helped invent,” the essay declared, explaining the formation of a new group, “Third Act,” whose first foray has been to pressure banks to stop financing the “fossil fuel industry” and climate change.
Commendable, I think, but too civilized. McKibben and co-author Akaya Windwood jokingly referred to “codger power,” which makes old folks sound a little too cuddly, when what we really have to offer is our fury.
Richard Donelly, for example, brings chain-saw energy to the challenge of our times.
A frequent letter writer to the Providence Journal, Donelly injects smoldering common sense into the debates about Republican subversion, climate denial and Covid foolishness. Last Nov. 2, he wrote about Sara Kaan, a nurse at the Rhode Island Veterans Home who had been featured in a news story pleading with the state’s governor to exempt her from vaccination mandates.
"I am simply terrified of this vaccine," said Kaan, who is 72, and an ardent Trump supporter, crediting him for advancing vaccine development. But personally, she said, she has had bad reactions to antibiotics in the past and to a flu shot she received 20 years ago.
“She credits Trump with supplying ‘the push’ to get the vaccine, while refusing it herself,” Donelly wrote, and he said "I would feel very uncomfortable being cared for by a nurse or doctor who hadn't taken the precautions science developed to lessen the chances of spreading COVID."
He noted policies at Gamm and Trinity that protected patrons and staff.
“So it seems I am safer being in a theater than I would be visiting a patient of Sara Kaan’s,” he said. “There’s something wrong with that. Hospitals should be safe – shouldn’t they?”
AS A GROUP, the old ones are stark-raving mad, and we have a right to be.
Death is a daily insult. Our partners, our friends, relatives, neighbors, former colleagues and favorite musicians are dying every month, or are reported to be on their way. By the time you get to 80 – four months left in my case -- death is in your face.
Our bodies have betrayed us. We hurt when we bend over and hurt when we don’t.
We have buried our parents, somehow survived cancer and heart disease, had some successes, maybe walked away from car crashes, but now we look back on decades of missed opportunities, books unread, countries not visited, money squandered and now face the ways in which we've let down our partners and our kids And now it’s too late.
Makes us mad.
The challenge is how to harness this anger, at a time when the forces of reform are discouraged, weary and passive, seeing Trump's many sins go unpunished and that the momentum is with his crazed acolytes.
Which is where the anger comes in.
We can follow Richard Donelly’s example and speak up, name names and call out foolishness and hypocrisy wherever it shows up. Sara Kaan threatens our health? Call her out.
We need to counter, at every chance, betrayal, cheating and sedition. Let’s share some of our Social Security benefits with candidates, news organizations, businesses, non-profits, any group that can make a difference, and lots of them are trying hard to do that.
If we can still make it up the steps, knock on a few doors on behalf of a candidate. Not up to that, ring some phones – even during supper. Invest in a few stamps, and write letters -- we know how to do that. We can text, tweet, email, post on social media -- and can learn learn how, if need be.
We can vote.
We’ve got the numbers. There are millions and millions of old ones. Stop yelling at the kids trespassing on our lawns. Instead, let our rage drive us to the polls. Fill out our ballots, or mail them in, or drop them off. Don’t let the spoilers, the cheats, the gerrymanderers, the fixers, the scoundrels, scare, intimidate or discourage us. Get mad, send a message and make sure it gets counted.
Our time is short.
But in the remaining moments, we can still bare our gums, sharpen our canes and fire up our walkers. On behalf of our grandchildren, we demand a democracy in which they can grow up to be just like Granny and Gramps: free and furious.
BRIAN C. JONES