John Cole noted, “I honestly cannot recall a State of the Union address which has received less hype.” Neither can I. Usually, even for lame-duck presidents, the SOTU is a pretty significant moment of political theater. I remember the last addresses for Reagan and Clinton drew quite a bit of attention, but going into tonight’s speech, no one, on either side, seems to care at all. I frequently get the sense the country is asking Bush, almost in unison, “You’re still here?”
Of course, the SOTU invariably leads to some reflection and introspection. For example, a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Dana Perino a very good question: “Is the country better off now than seven years ago?” Given the response, I don’t think Perino was prepared for the question.
“Certainly seven years ago — well, seven years ago, right before September 11th, I think that people would say that the country certainly felt better off. There’s been — once we were confronted with terrorists who would fly jumbo jets into buildings and kill thousands of our citizens in an instant, it created a sense of fear and nervousness about our security. And that’s why the President decided to take on the terrorists head on and go on the offense.
“And we have done that around the world. We have been successful so far in preventing another attack on our country. But it’s not for their lack of trying. And that’s another reason why the President — tonight you’ll hear him call on Congress to pass the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act reauthorization. They have until Friday to do that, and the President sees no reason why they shouldn’t be able to get that done.”
Um, Dana? (Can I call you “Dana”?) The question was, “Is the country better off now than seven years ago?” The fact that you couldn’t answer it — you barely tried — doesn’t exactly reflect well on Bush’s presidency.
Of course, this shouldn’t come as too big a surprise. What, exactly, could Perino say?