— Mark Twain
American Humorist (1835-1910)
No offense to President Barack Obama but I rarely watch the annual State of the Union address.
Please understand I have my reasons.
Mr. President, I’m sure you are an extremely nice person. At the very least, you are certainly well intentioned. Your wife, Michelle, is beautiful, smart and obviously has a pure heart for good causes, and your pair of daughters are precious. The White House dog’s OK too.
Oh, and should you wonder, it’s still OK for guys to say “precious.” I checked. We’re just not supposed to say “cute.” Sir, I don’t know why. It’s been a man thing for centuries. Word off the streets is it started with Spartacus, but I can’t be certain. Ours is not to question but to do, and not to do.
And by the way, I think it’s unbecoming of some of those Green Bay Packers to take shots at you just because you wanted to attend the Super Bowl if your Chicago Bears had won that conference championship game. A man should know no shame for supporting Bears football. Even Cubs fans know that.
Mr. President, please do not be offended by this next disclosure.
As has been my tradition for the past few years, I missed your speech Tuesday night. I might have watched it but I had to work. I had to cover for another newsman who couldn’t cover his beat because he was busy covering for another newsman who couldn’t cover his beat. After the government meeting that night I returned to the newsroom to write the stuff for Wednesday’s edition. By the time I returned home, the house was dark, my wife was already asleep and I was tired.
But I couldn’t snack because of that darn New Year’s Resolution.
Life gets crazy sometimes.
Newspaper work too.
Somebody once told me of the newsprint business, “It’s not a job. It’s a lifestyle.”
That somebody was right.
One for all and all for one and every man for himself when the tough gets going and the going’s done gone — it’s what I always say, anyway.
Back to topic.
I don’t have a great track record with State of the Union addresses. I either forget they’re on the tube or I’m watching something else on cable. Or, I’m away from home — like at the office working — or I have fallen asleep on the couch watching a half-hour sitcom whose role was to help me fall asleep on the couch in preparation for going to bed. It’s a pretty vicious circle. You just have to endure.
In a former life when my hairline and forehead were not strangers, when my waistline was less pronounced and my memory extended beyond five minutes earlier, I would occasionally watch the State of the Union.
I felt noble.
I became one with the nation and enjoyed a special kinship with the president.
I believed for that hour I truly knew him and he understood me.
But it wasn’t always easy.
All those blasted interruptions ... the timed applauses ... the attaboy attitudes in Congress whose members set aside their petty political differences for one night in order to extend to the commander-in-chief a polite hand.
And another hand.
And then another.
And yet still another.
I have never placed a stopwatch to it but I figure those congressional leaders interrupt the president’s speech every 2.173672 minutes ... approximately.
Perhaps I exaggerate. I don’t know. But remember, I am authorized. In the day they called it journalistic licensing. To embellish is to inform. Today’s universities may label it differently. I can’t say with authenticity, as my degree came 34 years ago. Yet the yellowed sheepskin still hangs on my office wall. Poor sheep. Talk about the need for collective bargaining. Much younger writers, grads of the Class of 20ME, might offer insight if asked but I dare not interrupt their texting.
Back to the State of the Union. One year I did the unmentionable.
I counted — using all fingers and toes and my friends’ fingers and toes — the number of interrupting applauses by those people.
Count’em folks — 77.
Yes, you read it here first.
One year I counted 77 mindless, thundering, disruptive ovations.
I can’t even remember the president who was speaking.
Suffice to say, he was so angered he left office.
I don’t blame him.
To applaud is polite.
To applaud every third sentence is dumb.
President Obama, I’m sure you delivered a splendid message Tuesday night.
I just hope somebody heard it.