I watched with my Darling Daughter curled up next to me on the sofa. Somehow I had conned her into thinking this was "must see TV." I had accomplished this in part by explaining the Constitutional and traditional significance of the speech.
But she was really more intrigued by my telling her about how the Supreme Court Justices don't clap and how the two major parties would be on opposite sides of the room, clapping only when their party liked what the president was saying.
She wanted see, I think, if democracy would really permit such open dissention and criticism of even the President of the United States.
My Darling Wife was nearby working on the computer, not really watching or listening, but still part of the scene. She would occasionally grumble a comment or a rebuttal to what the president was saying. The president's approval rating with her is negative 254, if you know what I mean.
My girl naturally was more interested in the crowd than in the speaker. She commented on how much they did or did not clap, how they were dressed, and who was smiling and who was frowning.
The speech did not hold her attention. After about thirty minutes of it, she drifted off to her room to read. I'm sure much of it was unintelligible to her, and I confess having the same reaction.
Leadership is all about vision and inspiration. It's all about having these things, and then being able to communicate and share them with others.
The vision articulated by President Bush last night was mostly about waging war. The inspiration he tried to impart was mostly about our military in combat.
There's an old saying that if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem you encounter will look like a nail. The president looked and sounded like Thor last night, pumping his hammer menacingly over head.
Unfortunately, the problems we are dealing with in New Orleans and other hurricane-devastated areas are nothing like nails. And I know now that he has lost interest in our plight and drifted off to other pursuits, much as my 9-year-old did.
Still, I held on, waiting for the president to talk about the Gulf Coast. I was eager to hear if he would make any new proposals, or at least promise to keep his past promises. But there was nothing. Just a quick, "We feel sorry and we've already sent money so let's move on."
The leader of the strongest nation on the Earth talked for almost an hour about the State of the Union, but spoke barely of the hundreds-of-thousands of citizens displaced and homeless, and of course did not mention that more than 1,300 Americans were killed by Hurricane Katrina. He instead scolded New Orleans for having a poor education system prior to the storm.
Just a short walk from the mighty Mississippi River, in my apartment in the "sliver by the river," I realized that despite what he had emphatically said barely four months ago, the President was indeed going to leave what remains of New Orleans to the "whims of nature."