I watched President Obama's speech last night on television. I still cannot believe I made it through the whole thing without switching the channel, since I have a distaste for politics in general and don't believe a word that comes out of any career politician's mouth. But I did watch the whole thing. And without really getting into detail about the content of the speech, I'd like to share some of my thoughts about the overall presentation.
From the minute the doors opened and the Cabinet members walked in, the pretentious ceremony began. Fake smiles were plastered on everyone's faces while they shook hands and stiffly laughed at the jokes that were whispered in their ears. I've listened for years to people say how over the top and plastic the world of pageants is. But I'm telling you right now, there is NOTHING more fake than the back slapping, hand shaking, toothy grinned, baby holding bunch of politicians I watched last night.
And speaking of plastic... it's really hard for me to watch Nancy Pelosi. During the entire speech, Vice President Biden watched the back of President Obama's head during the course of the address, seemingly focused on what the President was saying. Pelosi, on the other hand, Fraggle-like in appearance, looked as if she kept remembering that she was on camera, and continued to smile at people in the gallery as the President spoke. It was more than a little distracting. I noticed that she also kept talking to Biden during applause breaks. I wonder if it got on Biden's nerves. It didn't appear that he ever answered her, so I'm led to believe he, like me, was wishing she'd just be quiet.
Now, about those applause breaks... Charlie Gibson reported post-speech that the Pres was interrupted 40 times by applause and standing ovations. SERIOUSLY?!?! Is that really necessary? I mean, I'm no great orator and I certainly don't have as much experience speaking publicly as any of these politicians, much less the President of the United States, but if I were speaking to a group of people and during the course of a 45 minute speech I was interrupted 40 times, I would think I'd sort of lose momentum. It was hard to follow as a listener; I can't imagine how difficult it would be to try to get a point across when you're interrupted after every sentence. Not to mention that there were several old guys in the front couple of rows that were having a hard time standing up and sitting back down so much. I felt bad for them. I could hear their knees creaking all the way through the TV. I kept hoping President Obama would say, "Let's just hold all the applause until the end of the speech, okay?" No such luck.
One interruption I found odd came from a man sitting in the right side of the gallery, who I found out this morning was Republican Joe Wilson from South Carolina. When the President said his health plan would not cover illegal immigrants, Wilson very loudly yelled, "You lie!" Even old Charlie Gipson said in all his years of covering Presidential addresses he had never heard this happen. You expect to hear heckling in a comedy club, not at a Presidential address. It was rude, indeed. But I'm wondering what Mr. Wilson knows that I don't know. Makes you wonder, doesn't it?
Now here's something I found humorous. Did you notice that all the "women of power" were wearing red suits? Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and a host of other senators and congresswomen were all wearing red. Toward the end of the speech, when the cameras would pan the gallery I began to pick out the red suits in the crowd and try to see who was wearing them. I love a red suit. I do. But for this occasion I think it was a little cliche for all the female politicians to be wearing one. It was such a nice contrast to see Michelle Obama looking lovely in a dusty rose colored suit, reminiscent of attire worn by the always fashionable Jackie O. Something else I noticed... Michelle Obama is a beautiful woman. Truly stunning.
I found it wise that the President gave shout-outs to John McCain and Orrin Hatch for their patients' bill of rights. I found it typical and redundant that he took pot shots at the Bush administration for the massive deficit. Every time I've heard the man speak, he has "made it clear" that the blame for all our country's problems should be focused on George W. Even if that were indeed true, it's really in poor taste to continually say, "It's not my fault!!!" We know that's how you feel. You've said a zillion times. Enough already.
I thought it was funny that after the President said, "We still have some significant details to iron out," the entire room burst into laughter. Mr. Obama was the only person not laughing.
Well, okay. Maybe he's not the only person who isn't laughing. There are a whole bunch of folks who aren't laughing about this whole health care thing. What Mr. Obama said last night sounded great. But he's a great speaker. He's brilliant at saying what everybody wants to hear, and at pulling people together by paying tribute to those on opposite sides of the fence. And he does it with the voice of a Pentacostal preacher at times. He's forceful, articulate and savvy. But the question is... what did he leave out? What was he NOT saying?
After all was said and done, and the dust settled on the spectacle that was a Presidential address regarding the health care crisis, what did I really learn?
Well, I guess what I learned is that if I'm ever elected to Congress and attend a televised Presidential address, I shouldn't wear a red suit.