Blue: State of the Union proves to be unanimously boring

Brandon Blue

From the time I saw my first Wonderbread truck I’ve felt that plowing into the back of one going 70 mph would be the gentlest car crash ever. But even that wouldn’t be nearly as soft as Obama’s remarks Tuesday in his State of the Union address.

Yet somehow the three major networks managed to conjure up the ghost of Ronald Reagan, one of the hardest-hitting presidents of recent memory, simultaneously comparing the Gipper to the Messiah in all three strains of post-speech coverage.

Did I watch the same State of the Union? Obama and Reagan, in the same sentence? “We do big things” is now just as powerful as “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall?” That’s like saying Glenn Beck is this generation’s Edward R. Murrow. Sure, both have legs and are on TV, but that’s pretty much where the similarities end.

Even so, presidential historian and 9/11 Commission chairman Alvin Felzenberg might’ve agreed with the comparison; both borrowed from other sources on occasion. But where Reagan would quote a movie line here and there, Obama’s “borrowing” is more akin to reading the entire script through his teleprompter.

That’s right, Felzenberg said our first post-racial president is not a post-plagiarism president. He claims that Obama crammed words from Wilson, Cuomo, Thatcher, Eisenhower, JFK and FDR into an hourlong speech.

And it was still dry as sandy toast.

Well, I took it upon myself to watch the whole speech as sporadically and disinterestedly as most Americans, and I feel that I got a pretty objective grasp of what it all was.

Perhaps the most profound point I gleaned from the entire thing was that Boehner got shorter as the night wore on. He ended up somewhere in height between hobbit and Oompa-Loompa, though I’m not sure what effect this will have on his tenure as Speaker of the House. Was I watching a metaphor play out before me? Are the Republicans going to shrink away?

When the GOP say they’re going to work with the Democrats on something, I immediately think of Charlie Brown trying to kick a football. Anybody using eyeballs could see that the Democrats knew if they could spread the Republicans out over the House floor, it would seem like the whole legislature was cheering Obama on when they stood to clap while simultaneously masking Republican gains. You’d have to be one of those two guys from the “Home Alone” movies to wander into such an obvious trap.

But, as lemmings rush to hurl themselves from windswept cliffs, the freshly minted Republicans in the House and Senate clambered over one another to sit beside Democrats that they’d viciously battled only months before. I voted for these guys. Time makes fools of us all, no?

Eric Ostermeier of Smart Politics has a fascinating point about Obama’s State of the Union — it was only written at an 8th grade level. So was the last one, according to the Flesch-Kincaid test, designed to measure readability of written work. In context, last week’s State of the Union is the second-lowest since Bush’s in 1992.

Compare that to Conrad Black’s succinct evisceration of Obama on the National Review Online. Calling the speech a “groaning farrago of clichés and unlikely undertakings,” Black effortlessly scored a 152 grade level on the Flesch-Kincaid test for knowing what “farrago” means and using it in a sentence.

To be fair to the president, I like to think that I myself write above an 8th grade level, though some copy editors at the Daily might disagree. I’m also a broadcast student and we only put one idea in each sentence, so I probably write closer to whichever grade level children are just after they learn to walk.

I get that short sentences result in a lower reading level. “We do big things” is not exactly the title of a doctoral thesis. But really? On the Flesch-Kincaid scale it pits Dubya against Obama in oratory and Bush wins? No offense to the former president, but how many grade levels does the Flesch-Kincaid test set you back if you make up a word?

Of all the post-address chatter, I felt that the only responses free of talking points and political slant were those of Biden and Boehner, whose respective fidgeting and yawning during the speech itself seemed to say it all.

Why am I sitting through this?