The Audacity of Oops
My fellow Americans,
Tonight I can report to you that the state of the union, on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being excellent, is a 9.8.
Now, you may ask—and I wouldn’t blame you for asking—how I came up with that number. You might be saying to yourself, “Wait a minute. I’ve got no job, no health insurance. My house isn’t worth half the amount of my mortgage, and I just got called up by the National Guard to do a fifth tour in Afghanistan. How the heck did he come up with 9.8?”
So it’s a good and valid question. And the answer is that 9.8 is pretty good, considering the mess my predecessor and the Republicans left me. Fair enough? I think so.
A year ago, I inspired the nation to have the audacity to hope that I would change the political culture in Washington. Now, it turns out I’m another hack politician.
I want to acknowledge some folks in this chamber here tonight. The cipher-faced, light-skinned fellow right behind me is Harry Reid, Senate Majority Leader, from the great state of Nevada, home of gambling, legal prostitution, and empty nuclear-waste facilities.
Over the last year, Harry has managed to do something I wouldn’t have dreamt possible: make me look like a total tool of the political establishment. How did he manage that? How did I manage that?
A year ago, I inspired the nation to have the audacity to hope that I would change the political culture in Washington. Now, a year later, it turns out I’m another hack politician—from Chicago, where, believe you me, we know a thing or two about hack politics.
I was going to set a new standard. Now I’m just a complicit bystander as Harry bribes, among others, a senator from Nebraska who wants his state to get a free pass on Medicare—in return for his vote on a health-care reform bill that would make the Founders weep, or throw up. Or both.
What a difference a year makes. But I’m pleased to report that before I came up here tonight, I was able to sign a contract with my publisher for a new book. I’m going to call it The Audacity of Oops.
As you know, it is customary procedure, during a State of the Union, for one Cabinet officer not to attend, so as to provide continuity of government in the event someone, say, flies a plane into the Capitol Building or sets off a nuclear bomb or what-have-you. Tonight, you will be reassured to know that Secretary Janet Napolitano of the Department of Homeland Security is at an undisclosed location, making sure that, as she would put it, the system goes on working.
I can further report that Secretary Napolitano has come up with an ingenious plan to prevent a recurrence of the Christmas bombing attempt. From now on, all planes flying into the United States will carry not air marshals but Dutch artists. For we now know that when it comes to disabling well-born Nigerians attempting to detonate their underpants, Dutch artists are proven first-responders.
Meanwhile, we must, and will, continue to strip-search 82-year-old white, Protestant grandmothers and 2-year-olds, lest we annoy the tender sensibilities of Muslim countries that practice, among other time-honored religious rituals, genital mutilation of young women, live burial of homosexuals, and stoning and beheading of adulterous women. God forbid we should upset them. We’re Americans. We’re better than that.
And now, let me say a word or two about a subject that I have not had time to address much this past year, what with arranging summits between the Cambridge, Massachusetts, police, and aggrieved Harvard professors, to say nothing of flying to and from Scandinavia to pick up gold medals—namely, the economy.
Frankly, the economy is not what it should be, which is why the state of the union is a 9.8 instead of a perfect 10.
I called in the smart folks in my administration, many of them educated at Harvard, and I put it to them directly. I said, “Is this my fault?” And to a person they said, “No, sir! No way!”
I said to them, “Well then, whose fault is it?” And they said, “It’s the bankers, Mr. President. The scum-sucking, stimulus money-accepting, bonus-awarding, self-regarding swine who inhabit the street of shame and infamy, the harlot’s den known as Wall Street.”
I said to them, “And what are we going to do about them? We can’t hang them all. We don’t have enough rope. And anyway, rope is expensive and I’m trying to cut the deficit. Ideas, people. I want ideas.”
So tonight I can announce to you, my fellow Americans, the creation of a bipartisan commission to study how to kill the bankers in an efficient and hemp-sensitive manner.
Now, it is customary on these occasions, after offering the American people bromides and yes, even downright lies about how well the nation is doing, to acknowledge American heroes sitting in the gallery.
Unfortunately, no pilots have landed planes in the Hudson River lately, so we don’t have any of them. But there are a number of Dutch artists with us tonight…
Christopher Buckley's books include Supreme Courtship, The White House Mess, Thank You for Smoking, Little Green Men, and Florence of Arabia. He was chief speechwriter for Vice President George H.W. Bush, and is editor-at-large of ForbesLife magazine. His new book is Losing Mum and Pup, a memoir. Buckley's Daily Beast column is the winner of an Online Journalism Award in the category of Online Commentary.