1. Most memorable line: "Are you going to have sex with me or do I have to rape you?" That's a paraphrase. Let me get the actual quote from the text. Obama said he had "a set of concrete, practical proposals," and "Some require congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still, and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation... that’s what I’m going to do."
2. The inanity of the congressional dress-up. Is every woman wearing bright red? As Obama squeezes in down the aisle, the backdrop of red looks like an array of military personnel from some European country, but it's just the congresswomen, bulging into the aisles. Of course, military personnel would clear a path, not make it more difficult for The Commander to walk by. The congressmen are less showily dressed. What choice do they have? If a male member wore anything other than a dark, neutral color, you'd think he's lost his mind, but the women seem to think they can't look crazy. "Shirley Temple is there," I said, spotting Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and being unfair to Shirley Temple, whose ringlets — as I do an image search this morning — look artlessly subtle and not at all like Debbie's headful of boing-y springs. Incredible what women can do to themselves and still be taken seriously. Respect the women! You'd better. Or else!
3. Obama kept kissing women. No selfies were taken, but what's with kissing so many women? "He should kiss some men," I said, and not because he's The First Gay President. He should kiss some men to establish that the kissing isn't sexual.
4. Meade announced "He looks high." I glanced up from the iPad game I was playing for the purpose of paying attention — solitaire — and noted the heavily drooping eyelids, then returned to my listen-only mode, with the audio in the room augmented by Meade's intermittent outbursts on the Obama-is-high theme, which fit the text, in ways that perhaps point #5 will make you see. If you're high. And, no, Obama said nothing last night about legalizing marijuana. And, also, Althouse and Meade were not high, not both of us or either of us. We were already talking and laughing as if we were. Artificial enhancement might tip us over into crying and despair.
5. Instead of talking about the government and anything related to his job or Congress's job, Obama begins by telling us about one American character after another, each described with irrelevant specificity. "An entrepreneur flipped on the lights in her tech startup...." Who the hell cares that the light was "flipped" on? Are we supposed to flip on with the excitement of your action verb "flipped"? This is why I don't read pulp novels. Characters continually commit actions that create a picture in your head, but it's always a dumb picture — flicking on light switches — and these details don't matter, don't connect to any meaning the author has to give. It's the opposite of turning on light. I can imagine the speechwriter deluding himself into thinking that this picture would somehow intrigue us, but it makes us feel that our time is being wasted. "An autoworker fine-tuned some of the best, most fuel-efficient cars in the world..." There's zero pretense that anybody checked to see if there really was that guy — "today in America" — doing exactly that. It's detail that is really the absence of detail. We're swimming in bullshit. "A man took the bus home from the graveyard shift, bone-tired" — no one noticed "bone" next to "grave"?! — "but dreaming big dreams for his son" — a deliberate allusion to Obama's autobiography title? I know he's trying to say This Is America. Like that's going to open us up for the paragraphs of policy that we know lie ahead.
6. The characters are more real when they're present in the room, like "Misty DeMars... a mother of two young boys." Okay, they really did find a person to represent this generality, and she's undeniably real. She's right there. But what does it mean that one particular lady got insurance? It's all worthwhile — all the clusterfuck of Obamacare — because Misty DeMars got insurance? And there's Estiven Rodriguez. Something about education happened to him, so that must mean something. I forget what. We got distracted by the way Obama's said "Rodriguez" — close to "Rod Regrets."
7. It's late, and we got tired, and we're on Central Time. I felt a little sorry for all those 50 and 60ish Congressfolk having to act excited that late at night. We were watching the speech on TV, and then I got it streaming on the mini-iPad, and we got in bed, each reading on iPads, while the mini, between us, blabbed on. Do those Congressfolk feel they're enjoying rare privilege, or do they wish they could be in bed too? I notice none of them seem to be wearing glasses, but they must need glasses, which means they are all wearing contact lenses. That must feel awful that late at night.
8. So much clapping. Clapping is quite an annoying noise, and this clapping happens and is going to happen so regularly, so exaggeratedly. The time-wastage is a constant, nagging presence. The speech is literally claptrap. Our legislative branch is trapped into clapping. At least the Democratic side. The judicial branch is represented, but they're trapped into not clapping. I see Roberts, Kennedy, and Kagan. (Kagan glowed red when Obama greeted her at the beginning.) I don't see Scalia, who once called the State of the Union "a juvenile spectacle" and said: "I resent being called upon to give it dignity…. It’s really not appropriate for the justices to be there." I, too, resent being called upon to give it dignity, not that anyone's calling on me, and I wonder if it's "appropriate" for a law professor to blog the SOTU into the indignity it deserves. Am I saying anything properly legal? If you don't think so, reread point #1 and dig the dignity of the lawprof blogger's concision.
9. With all the applause made the absence of applause stunning at the end the last thing he said about Iran. I said: "Wow!" at the time and made a mental note to check the text in the morning. It's: "If Iran’s leaders do not seize this opportunity, then I will be the first to call for more sanctions and stand ready to exercise all options to make sure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon. But if Iran’s leaders do seize the chance — and we’ll know soon enough — then Iran could take an important step to rejoin the community of nations, and we will have resolved one of the leading security challenges of our time without the risks of war."
10. The speech that began with a string of generically specific American characters ends with a long tribute to one character, present in the gallery, an Army Ranger named Cory Remsburg. He's already been on camera numerous times because he's sitting next to Michelle Obama (who, by the way, is wearing something that seems halfway between a 1950s little girl's party dress and an enlarged insect's carapace). There can be no dissent from solemn respect for Cory Remsburg, but are we to be bamboozled into thinking there can be no disrespect for this speech? Why is the President using Cory Remsburg as his shield from criticism, as he creaks to the end of this spectacle? Maybe everyone's so tired and so desirous of an end that we will be swept up into this it-must-be-the-last story — The Story of Cory — after which the applause must be so long and thunderous — because it must be bigger and louder than any of all the previous applauses — that we will have forgotten everything, as we dissolve into Dreams From My President.
But it's morning now, and I have the text. I can read where he bounced off the Army Ranger. Cory embodies the will and strength to fight back. It's not easy. "Sometimes we stumble; we make mistakes; we get frustrated or discouraged." Obama has stumbled and made mistakes, not that he directly admits it. Look there: It's Cory. But Cory didn't stumble and make mistakes. He did his duty, got injured, and kept going, doing what he, individually, needed to do. But he is appropriated to symbolize The People as a Whole. America as an entity moves forward: We have "placed our collective shoulder to the wheel of progress." The dismal old cliché put your shoulder to the wheel gets tricked up with the lefty words "collective" and "progress," and the workmanlike action verb "put" becomes the never-did-a-day-of-manual-labor word "placed." And now, we've gotta get out of this place, back into our individual lives, and I don't want to be in your collective, I'm tired of your "progress," and I've got my own wheels.