I just can't bring myself to watch the State of the Union speech tonight. I'm supposed to, I guess: I study politics and, if it is about anything, the speech is about politics. But I really can't stand it. Bush's style - the smirk, the odd cadence - rubs me the wrong way. And why waste time listening for the next grand untruth. No, I will read instead. So, this is not really a response, since I will not have heard what he said. It is a non-response.
The speech is a ritualized (and I mean that in a bad way, not in a good Confucian way) performance, long on rhetorical effort and short on honest engagement with reality. The overblown puffery of it makes me think of the last passage in the Tao Te Ching:
Sincere words are never beautiful
and beautiful words never sincere.
The noble are never eloquent
and the eloquent never noble.
The knowing are never learned
and the learned never knowing.
Oddly, Bush is never really eloquent; he just can't use the language. But tonight he will try to be, his speech writers and word spinners will have slaved long and hard over every line, searching for rhetorical beauty. But all that effort simply masks the many truths Bush and company will not confront. What appears to be sincerity tonight, will simply be subterfuge.