Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Politics of Incidental Details

Well, I just watched the State of the Union. That was more fun than I expected.

The secret to watching the address is to remember this: the words are almost meaningless. It's like the Grammy Award for Best New Artist: yeah, there's a lot of buzz about it at the moment that it happens, but what is the relevance down the line? The words are just a rhetorical exercise, a framework for all the really important stuff, the incidental details, the stuff that goes on outside of the words.

Take clothing. In the minutes leading up to the address, as the TV cameras panned across the crowd it became obvious that there was a lot of color-coding going on in the chamber. Red dresses stood out - not just red, but scarlet, the color of fresh arterial blood. Ties of the same color, too. There were blues, too, a deep dark blue. By its nature blue does not stand out as much on TV - but in crowd shots blue ties were obvious. And there were at least three purple dresses, and a yellow, and several greens.

The heavy hitters bucked the color segregation. Nancy "Blinky" Pelosi wore sea foam, a pale, greenish shade of aqua. Cheney wore black with a purple tie. And Bush wore a blue suit with a baby blue tie - not something I expected. John "Winky" McCain (he was blinking and winking, as opposed to Pelosi's constant blinking, which got distracting after a while) wore a yellow tie. In what may have been a faux pas, Cheney wore a flag lapel pin that was at least twice the size of his boss's.

Then there was the body language. Cheney and Pelosi were a yin and yang up there. Cheney cast more than a few sideways dirty looks at Pelosi. Pelosi looked sour at times. Ted Kennedy appeared to be more interested in reading his copy of the speech than watching Bush deliver it. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, appeared to be more alert and attentive than anyone else in the room, at least anyone else who made it onto TV.

Then there were the standing ovations. When did Pelosi lead, and Cheney follow? When did Cheney lead, and Pelosi follow? When did one stand, but the other refuse to stand? At one point Pelosi was the last one standing - because she was fumbling with her copy of the speech, trying to turn it over to the current page.

It looked to me like Cheney popped a pill at 9:20 PM. Not just popped: he seemed to toss it under his tongue, hold it there, and then swallow it 30 seconds later. What was that? Later I thought both he and Pelosi seemed to be sucking on cough drops - and I think a few more could have been passed out throughout the chamber.

When Bush was talking about alternative energy sources, Senator Grassley of Iowa was grinning so hard I thought his teeth were going to fall out. I guess he knows who's going to benefit from those initiatives.

Over on Adam Felber's site we had some rules for a State of the Union drinking game. I made one contribution:

If the President uses the word “nucular” at any point, stand up and shout at the TV “IT’S ‘NUCLEAR’, YOU F***ING MORON! NUUU-KLEEE-ERRRR! HOW HARD IS THAT TO PRONOUNCE???!!!” Drink the entire contents of the nearest bottle of alcohol and hurl the empty bottle at the TV. Then stomp off to bed, cursing the more than six million* fellow-morons who voted for Bush in 2004. Lie awake wondering how you’ll pay for a new TV.

Fortunately I was able to ignore my own rule at 9:30 and 9:53, and possibly one other time. My television is still intact.

*This should have said "more than sixty million fellow-morons". More than 62,040,000, according to CNN. Still, "more than sixty million" is more than six million, so the statement is technically correct.


tiffany said...

i'm sorry, i can't leave you a comment because that last part just made me pee myself.

(i'm kidding. but, seriously. i did nearly pee.)

CSL said...

Found my way here via Tiffany's blog, who(along with my kids) had shamed me into watching last night after all. Man, you are a minute observer. And that is a great idea for a drinking game, but how many TVs would you go through?

Ann said...

Wish I'd thought to watch it with the sound off! I avoided watching it entirely, but now I want to see what all the winking and blinking was about.