January 25, 2007

Not your average SOTU address

The average State of the Union address delivered by a lame duck president is an elegiac look back on past accomplishments and a look forward to, depending upon the political circumstances, a few last stabs at fixing problems (when working with an opposition Congress) or meeting great challenges (when working with a favorable Congress). I said I thought Bush would go another way and define accomplishment down. I was right about the former prediction and wrong about latter. (I really shouldn’t make predictions.)

We’re dealing with a rather obvious political reality here: Bush is a lame duck president whose party is out of power in Congress and whose poll numbers demonstrate that a majority of Americans are not happy with the job he’s doing.

And yet he delivers a State of the Union Address we’d expect to hear in the second or third year of a presidency: pep talk and laundry list. What chutzpah!

Do not assume I’m criticizing him for this choice. I think it was a brave choice–a breaking-the-mold choice. (A more cynical me might claim that Bush doesn’t know any other way than his own way; he is the president who loathes to admit a mistake. But I’m thinking his approach has the smell of legislative success because Americans will be watching the Democrats closely to see that they live up to their claims. Further, I don’t think most Americans are in the mood for a 2-year pissing match between Congress and the president.) And I think this was the best speech he has ever delivered. The silly frat boy smirks were gone (wiped away by the cold slap of reality perhaps). His tone and presence were thoroughly presidential. Where was this guy in 2003?

January 23, 2007

State of the Union

State of the Union addresses delivered late in a presidency tend to be rather elegiac in tone. It’s not difficult to understand one reason why: Lame ducks have much more to look back on than forward to. So they tend to stress accomplishment as a map pointing toward what might yet be accomplished. They tend to express sorrow for those things not accomplished.

Expect President Bush to go another way or to define accomplishment in such a way that most Americans may not recognize it, assuming that this poll result–just “22% of Americans say they want the president to set policy for the country–is accurate.

I’ll offer my analysis of the speech by Thursday afternoon.

January 16, 2007

Springfield Bloggers meet tonight (maybe)

With all the troubles caused by the ice storm, I wouldn’t be surprised if no one shows up for tonight’s Springfield Bloggers meeting. Then again, we could be packed with half-froze, half-crazed bloggers looking for a snort.

I can’t send a broadcast e-mail because the blogger list is on my laptop–no power, no internet connection (I’m in my office now). I’ll leave some reminders in the comments sections of certain area blogs. In any case, pass the word, and drop by the Patton Alley Pub at 7 p.m.

January 15, 2007

In search of power

I’m sitting in Panera Bread on Battlefield, and it’s getting ugly. The coffee just ran out. And crazed people with laptops, seeking warmth, java, and electricity, are eyeing my seat near what appears to be the only public electric outlet.

I may escape to the mall or maybe back to Bass Pro Shops. But no connectivity there.

Must. Stay. Connected.

What’s it like around here? Take a look at the damage to One Rhetorica Plaza. These shots were made yesterday before the third wave hit. It’s worse today.

January 15, 2007

Radio news

Day 3: Same pair of long underwear.

You may have heard that Springfield and the Missouri Ozarks have been bombed by three waves of ice storms–what will surely be the city’s worst natural disaster.

The power sent out at One Rhetorica Plaza early Friday evening. Yesterday we escaped to Bass Pro Shops to buy provisions and pig out at the buffet at Hemingway’s. I overheard this as I walked past the section where they sell hunting boots:

Person 1: Heard any news?

Person 2: No. There’s nothing on the radio.

Since about 8 p.m. on Friday I’ve been learning just how bad local radio news is, at least in Springfield, Missouri.

With as many as 75,000 City Utilities customers out of power (most of the city), radio is really the only source of immediate news. Gotta have the juice to get TV or the internet. All you need to get radio is a cheap receiver and a few batteries.

I’ve been cruising the AM and FM bands since Friday. Here’s my (limited) report on the sorry state of radio journalism:

KSMU (local NPR): Missing in action. Right now I care nothing about Talk of the Nation or NPR national news. I want to know what’s happening down the street.

KWTO (right-wing news/talk): Business as usual. The local morning show has been discussing the weather. Then it’s on to nationally syndicated shows.

KTTS (country): Regular, competent news casts, but nothing extraordinary–as if this natural disaster was hardly worth the effort.

KSGF (right-wing news/talk): Good local reporting.

I’m not a regular listener to KSGF because I despise the news/talk format in all its partisan stripes. But since this storm began, local host Vincent David Jericho has been doing great work by using radio to gather and disseminate information from all sources (citizen and official) and act as a clearing house to help the public survive this disaster.

I have a few, minor criticisms of Jericho’s performance, but they are not worth mentioning considering the value of the information he’s been getting and the help he’s been providing (e.g. identifying people who need help and encouraging his listeners to take care of it).

More soon…

January 8, 2007

Public blathering marches on

Think of partisan politics for a moment as a disease that attacks skepticism and changes it into cynicism. Here’s how a teacher at the Poynter Institute put it regarding the recent flap between the Associated Press and various right-wing bloggers (from USA Today):

“I don’t deny that they may be right in certain cases. But if there is blindness on the left, there are too often hallucinations on the right. What we have now is not skepticism but a corrosive cynicism that sees secret agendas where there are none, a poisonous predisposition that cannot be neutralized, even with the most persuasive evidence.”

Yes, political bias again. And the upshot of the recent flap: The AP could have been a little more open and the bloggers could have held their fire until more facts were discovered. Peter Johnson ends his column with an apt quote from Jay Rosen: “Hold your fire if you’re making accusations–and hold your fire if you are standing by your story.”

Rosen isn’t trying to be funny. He’s serious, and I agree with him. But, really… hold your fire? This just isn’t possible until the patient has been cured of the disease.

I’m afraid my cure is just as funny as Rosen’s assessment: Cultivating a deep respect for and dogged pursuit of The Facts before spouting off from your precious political perspective.

Certainly all of us who write opinion for public consumption–journalist, blogger, pundit–are guilty of spouting before checking and thinking. I think this recent episode is something of a wake-up call, something of a warning to do a smarter job of all this public blathering.

January 1, 2007

Onward and upward