THEATER OF THE ABSURD

Being asked to give the response to the State of the Union address is the political equivalent of Al Neri inviting Fredo Corleone to join him in a fishing boat on a quiet, remote lake. More than one Budding Career on the national stage has arrived stillborn during SOTU responses, with Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio being prominent examples. Nobody watches it, nobody talks about it unless you fuck up or look like a death row prisoner giving his last interview (Rubio), and its content is usually little more than a short, petulant tantrum about whatever the President just said. It is the worst job in American politics.

Terrible SOTU responses are the norm; the speaker inevitably looks like he or she is being forced to do it at gunpoint. There is no audience, just one person in an empty room in front of what looks like the old Masterpiece Theatre library backdrop. It combines the juvenile trash talking of a pro wrestling promo with the frightening sterility of a terrorist beheading video. I cannot imagine an environment designed more completely to ensure failure. I haven't seen every SOTU response ever, but I do know for certain that I have never seen a good one. Most of them would have to improve considerably to qualify as Terrible.

Every year I think it can't get any worse or more ridiculous and almost every year I am wrong. On Tuesday evening we were subjected to Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican who has been in the Senate for all of two weeks, giving a speech that made Jindal's "Kenneth the Page" impression look like an FDR Inaugural. It is clear why Republicans are so over-the-top patriotic, as in any other country someone like Ernst would be a minor bureaucrat at best, pushing papers around at the DMV or night-managing a KFC. In the United States she gets to be a Senator. What a country.

This is a speech written by idiots for even bigger idiots, delivered by a suit so empty that she looks totally unaware of how much she is embarrassing herself. The text is so ludicrous and fake-rustic that she is to be commended for keeping a straight face throughout, and the only question anyone could have at the end is, "Why is she talking to me like I'm four?"

The only logical explanation for this kind of performance art is that the political class is engaged in a concerted effort to make Americans cynical enough to stop paying attention to politics altogether. It's working.

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39 Responses to “THEATER OF THE ABSURD”

  1. jill Says:

    All I was able to remember was that her forehead didn't move, possibly due to botox, and that she wore breadbags on her feet in the snow. That probably wasn't the level of memorable she was hoping for. And yet we still lose elections to people like this. Oy.

  2. Heywood J. Says:

    Now now, I'm sure Senator Hawg Ballz did the very best she could. Which is the problem, of course — it's reasonable to presume at this point that every politician accurately represents their constituency, for better or worse.

  3. Andrew Says:

    Senators represent entire states, so it's unlikely that she does reflect her constituency.

  4. J. Dryden Says:

    In a nutshell: "You elected us, so let us tell you what you care about." There's a degree of high-handed-governmental bullshit that one normally associates with truly oppressive regimes–the kind of smiling lies that are told in place like Marcos's Philippines, Brezhnev's Soviet Union, etc.–the lies that say "We know that two seconds' reflection will tell you that we are lying to you, but we're betting you don't have the brains or the balls to take those two seconds, so slurp this up, maggots, and ask for seconds." Sen. Ernst is, I believe, stupid enough to believe her own sales pitch (which makes her sledgehammer delivery all the more appalling), but the people who wrote that speech for her are laughing their asses off at the thought that they were presenting the Keystone XL as a legitimately bipartisan, job-creating, economically necessary project that will have no significant environmental impact. "Oh, come on, we can't just have her SAY that–surely SOMEONE will fact-check that!" "Go for it–we'll just accuse any bitchy nay-sayers of being in Soros's pocket."

    Fuck this stupid fucking world.

  5. RosiesDad Says:

    Obama put me to sleep. I snored right through Senator Hog Castrator. My bad.

  6. Emerson Dameron Says:

    Obama was unapologetic in phoning it in.

    My concern with this Tracy Flick character is that there may be an audience for this. We're still not rid of the Palins.

  7. Susan Says:

    Wait….I say we put Palin, Ernst and Bachmann in an enclosed space and see if they'll kill each other off!!

  8. Elle Says:

    Should we be organising some kind of international aid effort to provide the children of Iowa with wellington boots?

  9. Delbort Says:

    I don't think we're the target audience for her speech and moreover I think this is sort of a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" kind of thing. The GOP has to run some kind of response, otherwise they're all just RINO squishes who have no answer for Obummer's deviant agenda, but the script is so worn out and has become so bonkers by now that anyone reading it suffers, not only for being bonkers themselves, but looking moreso by association. To us it looks like an absolute dumpster fire of a speech delivered by an idiot with a shitperm under their tinfoil hat, but to the Base it's an important token of their resistance to the fascist tyrant in the White House.

  10. Wotan Nichols Says:

    "…the political class is engaged in a concerted effort to make Americans
    cynical enough to stop paying attention to politics altogether." Bingo!
    "Politics is the entertainment branch of industry." –F. Zappa

  11. robo Says:

    Her speech had all the impact of a Delta Airlines safety video. She was, however, remarkably lifelike.

  12. TomW Says:

    Joni Ernst won because of Citizens United. Iowa is pretty evenly split between Democrats and Republicans and her Democratic opponent, Bruce Braley, was a solid candidate. But TONS of money flowed into Iowa for this race and paid for relentless attack ads against him. He also went negative, but he never gave as nasty as he was getting.

  13. Mayya Says:

    Something interesting – one of the local channels called it the Republican "rebuttal." That's telling it like it is.

    "Tonight, though, rather than respond to a speech, I’d like to talk about your priorities. I’d like to have a conversation about the new Republican Congress you just elected and how we plan to make Washington focus on your concerns again."

    She said that in the first minute of Her speech. So… if it's NOT a response to the sotu address, why is it billed as such and why is she getting free air time for a campaign speech?

  14. c u n d gulag Says:

    Ernst is a garden-variety conservative Christian loon, but she's a new and FEMALE garden-variety conservative Christian loon!

    And every Freakpublican politician last year ran on those same things that she did – things which will, if they pass both Houses, still be vetoed by the President.

    She got a free infomercial to present to the base.
    I can almost guarantee that she'll be the VP candidate for whatever male Christian loon wins the Freakpublican nomination.

    FSM save us!

  15. Skipper Says:

    Being asked to give this speech is the equivalent of being asked to be the "Nunber 2" guy is Al Qaeda who, for the record, we have killed 487 times in the last 10 years.

    But also for the record, there is no constiutional requirement that we have this absurd pageant every year. The president is only required to report to the Congress. He could do it in Tweets, for all that matter.

    This whole thing is just political theater that follows a predictable formula. Party in power praises itself. The partisans cheer, and the outsiders frown and sit on their hands. A few people in uniform are trotted in to be fetishized, as justification for perpetual war. And the outside party gives a reponse.

    I know some people said they slept through the SOTU, but then drugs are a terrible thing. I watched a hockey game.

  16. mac Says:

    At least she had bread bags. We had to put pig testicles on our feet. the sac part

  17. bobbie the fig Says:

    This is another example of why we should go back to the good old days of the founding enslavers when POTUS handed the SOTU to some underling who then read it to whoever showed up in congress. Yawns ensued resulting in zero need for rebuttals.

  18. Whatver Says:

    On the plus side, Joni Ernst makes pigs squeal like a pig.

  19. beejeez Says:

    I used to think it was unfair that the GOP lined up four or more respondents to Obama's SOTU every year, compared to the Democrats' one during GOP presidencies. Now, I think we should let the Republicans line up all they want. Hell, make it 10. In a few years, we could make laughingstocks of the whole party.

  20. Whatver Says:

    And Jodi Ernst has gotten her nickname: Breadbag!

  21. mothra Says:

    When I was growing up, we were so poor we only had paper sacks for shoes. We used the old luminaria bags, in fact. Top THAT Ms. Ernst!

  22. Sanjay Says:

    It's far worse than what you think. These vacuous talking heads actually believe their vacuous words.

  23. Emerson Dameron Says:

    One thing I really do miss about California shout radio is the brief check-ins with third party candidates.

    There's a third party in CA called the American Independent Party. A lot of new drivers sign up for it because they see the word "independent," when in fact it's a Birch Society/KKK front.

    Its radio interviews were almost as bad as this Ernst hostage video.

    This is your life, GOP.

  24. democommie Says:

    "But also for the record, there is no constiutional requirement that we have this absurd pageant every year. The president is only required to report to the Congress. He could do it in Tweets, for all that matter.

    And if the KUFOS* did such a thing it would make ArugulaGate's out-of-touchiness look like a tempest in a toilet bowl!

    "And Jodi Ernst has gotten her nickname: Breadbag!"

    Breadbag Lady works better for me.

    Last evening I played trivia and one of the questions asked for her name. I had forgotten it, for obvious reasons (at least to me) but I wrote down, "Debbie Kutchercockoff" and got style points. I think that Jodi Ernst-Roehm would suitable, as well, also, too. They share a love for sharp blades,

    Kenyan Usurper From Outer Space

  25. Mr. Wonderful Says:

    Well, jeez, now you're making me sorry I missed (i.e., avoided) it. But then, I still beat myself up for being too la-di-dah and grand and insightful to bother writing in for one of those (free!) WIN buttons during the Ford administration. When will I ever learn?

  26. schmitt trigger Says:

    "The only logical explanation for this kind of performance art is that the political class is engaged in a concerted effort to make Americans cynical enough to stop paying attention to politics altogether. It's working"

    This is the sad, terrible truth.

    Reading or watching politics has become so disgusting and stomach revolting that a significant majority simply ignore it.

  27. sallys dad Says:

    That whole shit-show last night reminded me of a line from the NoMeansNo song Everyday I Start to Ooze: "A bold plan drawn up by assholes to screw morons; news at 11"

  28. TomW Says:

    And there's already a t-shirt.

    http://raygunsite.com/collections/guys/products/breadbagiowa-1

  29. Jesse Says:

    This is just part of the echo chamber.

    Most people probably don't realize this but the Palin agenda during her half-term as Governor was pretty contradictory to ideology she espouses every chance she gets nowadays. She flipped the switch as soon as the cameras were on her. Once you get into the national GOP spotlight there is a set script you have to stick to and the ones who will hammer the talking points the hardest, loudest, and are willing to throw themselves on the most absurd of them, are rewarded.

    These points are not meant to appeal to people who haven't made up their minds. They're not meant to be a response or a rebuttal to any contrary arguments. Obama could talk about football for his entire address and the response would be 99% the same. It's only there to appeal to and reinforce the ideas of those who already agree with the talking points.

  30. Mr. Wonderful Says:

    "a significant majority simply ignore it."

    Really? I'm prepared to believe that's true, but if so, why? Because they don't like the "partisanship"? I wonder. I find it disgusting and revolting, sure, but that's because literally every single thing Republicans say in public, is a lie, AND no one sharing that stage (Dems, mainstream media) attacks and refutes it with the contempt and derision it deserves. (Comedy shows do, and Rachel M. does, but that's it.) That's why I read blogs like this.

    I don't think your significant majority shares that reaction. If they did, far fewer Republicans would be in Congress. So what turns people off? Perhaps a significant majority have always paid only occasional attention, and what we see today is the hugely-proliferating sources of engagement (online, cable tv, etc.) that they, *as they always have,* ignore. I'm making this up, and I'm sincerely asking.

  31. Don Says:

    Huh. Robotics has really come a long way. Might have been more obvious on the big screen but watching on my phone, that thing looks pretty lifelike.

  32. James Hare Says:

    Jim Webb's SOTU response was fairly well-received. His political career ended more or less because he didn't like being a politician. He's still got enough pop with the media to get plenty of free press when he suggests he might want to do an ego run for the Democratic nomination. Of course he had a fairly low bar — looking better than President Bush in 2007 wasn't exactly a challenge.

  33. anotherbozo Says:

    "It combines the juvenile trash talking of a pro wrestling promo with the frightening sterility of a terrorist beheading video."

    Why I love this blog.

    Joni Ernst could have been a Jan Hooks cold open on SNL. Without a single change of script, inflection or expression. Our politics are so beyond parody.

  34. April Says:

    I haven't done the math myself but I read somewhere that Ernst had to wear those breadbags during St. Ronnie's reign. Funny how she didn't mention that, huh?

  35. Skepticalist Says:

    I'm stunned. I hadn't seen whatever one thinks this is until a few hours ago. Other than learning that they used Wonder Bread wrappers, it was a waste of ten minutes. Rick Santorum makes better speeches–fun anyway.

    In the old old days, a president submitted his SOTU by document to be read to what members of Congress cared to show up. It would be great comedy hearing it from Fox News.

    The end times are near

  36. Joe Brown Says:

    Another GOP farm subsidy welfare queen telling us proles what's what.

  37. garry Says:

    And yet they continue to kick our asses politically. Go figure.

  38. cromartie Says:

    Her speech had all the impact of a Delta Airlines safety video. She was, however, remarkably lifelike.

    Please. The redhead they used in that safety video two years ago was smoking hot. I was ready to be her sugar daddy the moment she told me smoking wasn't allowed and waved her finger at me.

    This Iowa five, on the other hand…notsomuch.

    Bruce Braley wasn't a solid candidate done in by outside money. He was a terrible candidate done in by his own ineptitude.

  39. Luke Says:

    @TomW that t-shirt is priceless

    Need to make one with "Morning Biscuit Line" as well…