Thursday, February 03, 2005

State of the Union

I did not watch the State of the Union address last night. I was having an excellent dinner at the time; I think I win. I did read the transcript, though, and saw a few segments of the speech on the news while I was waiting in the airport for my flight home. Leaving aside the content of the speech, which predictably made my stomach ache, I was struck by both the written and the spoken form. As a piece of writing, it was standard political cant, written by someone basically competent, if not too inspired. I thought the prose was more than a little purple, but most political speeches suffer that flaw. Somehow, though, when Bush spoke those words, they sounded rather less eloquent.

I finished reading The Vintage Mencken on the plane ride. One of the last pieces in the collection is In Memorium: WJB, perhaps the most scathing eulogy I've ever read. I'm not sure how many parallels can be drawn between GWB and WJB, but power of presentation is not one of them.

Mencken of WJB:

This talk of sincerity, I confess, fatigues me. If the fellow was sincere, then so was P.T. Barnum. The word is disgraced and degraded by such uses. He was, in fact, a charlatan, a mountebank, a zany without sense or dignity.