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The first time I watched a session of the UK parliament on television, I marveled at how physically fit they all were in the House of Commons, bobbing up and down like the pegs in that children's game: smash one and another pops up.

Audiences of the SOTU don't pop up and down that often. They stand for longer times. But there wasn't that much standing at this year's SOTU. And I heard a few BOO's also, one the last sound before the president began his speech.   

Then, up above the prez for some reason, the VP and Speaker of the House sit looking down on him--God and the devil? So it seemed this evening as Biden got full camera while only the far right of Boehner's visage was apparent, a slice. No symmetry there or in Congress. A microcosm perhaps. I studied camera foci as much as I listened to Obama's plea for four more years or, as the ABC commentators said, his response to three months of Republican campaign attacks.   

I heard Diane Sawyer's count of nine months and three days until Election Day and I couldn't help but think of another greater speech that began with "Four score and seven years." Indeed Obama did hearken back to at least one distinguished Republican, Abe Lincoln. Oh, come on. Lincoln's statue would shatter at that parallel. Speak softly, Bar. 

Other pre-SOTU thoughts from Sawyer and George Stephanopoulos: two-thirds of the country don't believe that things in this country are getting better. Congress is as divided as we've ever seen it. But how Gabrielle Giffords has twice brought together Congress as a unit, as if it were a unit, as the Senate marched into the chamber in a single clump tonight. Can't something less drastic than fatal gunfire create nonpartisanship, patriotism? 

Boehmer hadn't spoken to Obama in a month, we were further told; the prez has a score of 54 percent favorability, an achievement that has crept up slowly from the doldrums of--I'm not sure how low a score, but low. And how many incumbents have regained their seats after this pattern? I don't know, but with one open-marriage nut running against a tax evader and outsourcer, stranger things have happened than the incumbent kept. Surely we've chosen the lesser of two evils before. Last time we got whom we wanted, but the two previous times the "worst man won." So "lesser of two evils" is the trope of our times, perhaps. 

I don't mean to diminish the speech itself, which was filled with effective anaphorae like "Send me a bill for _____ and I'll sign it." And lots of occurrences of "fair" and "share" and even an echo of a time long gone, something akin to "Yes, we can." That means it's campaign time again. 

The camera crew denied us the real show by hiding all but an expressionless slice of Boehner's face. Those shots of Cheney sitting next to Nancy Pelosi were priceless from 2006 and 2007.   

The SOTU described, despite those 66.6% of little faith, how rosy things really are and how the best is yet to come:   

For the first time in nine years the U.S. is out of Iraq, completely out. (Think not of how many died, but how many survived);   

The twenty-year threat of bin Laden is now over (thirty years ago we were friends, though);   

Some troops have returned from Afghanistan, more will return next summer, and think how much money we will be saving; that poor war-shredded country will no longer be a haven for our enemies (forget how much we spent--it wasn't in the budget anyway);   

Our military have exceeded all of our expectations. If we follow their example, we'll learn a lot (no wise cracks, but you know what I'm thinking--all that weaponry that didn't go unused). Tuck this in; the theme returns).   

Here's what we can do: lead the world again in education, high-paying jobs, an economy built to last, rewards for hard work. We can do this. (not "yes, we can!!")   

Consider the twentieth century, a great time when we triumphed over the Great Depression and Fascism. Thence was born the American dream: house, kids, two-car garage, picket fence, mortgage, car loan (desperate housewives?)   

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A jack of some trades, writing and editing among them, Marta Steele, an admitted and proud holdover from the late sixties, returned to activism ten years ago after first establishing her skills as a college [mostly adjunct] professor in three (more...)
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