My husband and I won't be watching the State of the Union address Tuesday night. It's not because we don't care for President Trump, although that's true as well. It's just a general policy we have.
Television is enough of a time suck as it is. Why waste more time listening to some pontificating politician bloviate and prevaricate, exaggerating his own importance and achievements, trying to convince the audience how admired he is on a global scale, and otherwise subjecting unfortunate viewers to quirks that annoy them to the point of throwing the nearest hissing cat at the flat-screen?
I'm sure some of you are aghast at this admission. A journalist who doesn't watch or listen to the SOTU speech? What is this world coming to? But of course, I do read the text of the speeches later, and the analyses of what's been said - and would have to, anyway, to produce localized news stories and commentary. Why would I want to suffer through the auditory version as well as the visual ones from reputable news sites?
I frankly can't stand to hear Trump talk, or look at the pursed lips that remind me of those trumpet flowers that attract bees and hummingbirds and clog up pool filters. That would be the case even if every other word that issued forth weren't a provable lie, up to and including his relentless clarion call of "fake news" against me and my brothers and sisters in the business. And the constant sniffing - that's annoying, too. Can't one of his staff hand him a facial tissue and order him to blow his nose?
There was something about President Obama's voice that grated on my husband's nerves, so we never saw an entire SOTU address of his, either. We would see clips, with the long, dramatic pauses - not to huff some mucus back into a runny snout, but to await the applause, head tilted back with confidence. Whereas cartoonists portray Trump with a maw that more closely resembles something at the other end of the body, they gave Obama Dumbo ears - and indeed, at times, he seemed ready to go airborne and buzz about like a drone.
George W. Bush - "Shrub" or "Dubya" to some, to distinguish him from "Poppy" - was similarly annoying in his speaking manner. He has much improved since he assumed the elder statesman role, offering thoughtful bits of wisdom, with appropriate phrasing and just the right cadence. But back in the day, he would pause every time he thought he said something clever - usually mistakenly - and his head would sort of bounce and turn like a bobble-head doll. And he laughed at his own perceived joke: "Heh-heh... heh-heh...heh-heh." The pundits had almost as much fun with that as they do now with Trump's lies and buffoonish facial expressions.
Then there was Bill Clinton. The Arkie accent was probably bad enough for viewers who weren't from this neck of the woods, but it didn't hold a candle to the thumb. It was almost hypnotic, the way he pointed it upward and moved the hand forward and backward as if he were working a particularly cranky gear shift. I remember making jokes at the time that someone should cut off that thumb. Of course, I say the same thing now about Trump, but I would prefer he lose both thumbs instead of just the one, to prevent his making those asinine and grammatically atrocious comments on Twitter. Besides Clinton's thumb, and hick accent (very like my own), there was the stained blue dress. You couldn't look at the man without a mental image of that befouled bundle of fabric looming behind him. It was impossible to ignore, kind of like the earworm of "Seasons in the Sun" that inexplicably - and horrifically - pops into your head when someone mentions 45 records.
Poppy Bush wasn't around for too many SOTU speeches, and at the time, I was chasing after a small child. Despite the ongoing war in Iraq at that time - and at this time, and perhaps every other time in the foreseeable future - I didn't pay much attention to his speeches when they were given. It was only later I heard them on KRMG, sandwiched between the unending series of oral farts that constitute a Rush Limbaugh broadcast.
As for Ronald Reagan, there are few who would deny the man could turn a phrase. He was an actor, after all, and although some of his policies have left scars on this country that will never go away - as have most presidents, in fact - he was a terrific orator. They didn't call him "The Great Communicator" for nothing. It's amazing to me that the legacy of Reagan, who was for so long the ultimate hero of the right, is now besmirched by Trump fans, who prefer the crass, oafish word soup of the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania to the elegant eloquence of Reagan.
So, yeah. I've been done with SOTUs for some time now. But the presidents and their personal ticks and traits aren't the most sickening aspect of the whole affair. That honor belongs to the simpering, whimpering, brown-nosing, boot-licking members of Congress, who long ago handed over their power to the executive branch as a means of remaining ensconced in their own cushy berths. Watching them clap their hands raw and shout themselves hoarse in praise of a president who may or may not deserve their devotion is enough to make a discerning viewer expel his latest meal. I much prefer the dour, sour faces and subtle teeth-grinding of the Speaker of the House when he or she is from the opposing party.
What will we be doing instead of watching the SOTU? Well, there's a city election going on that night, although the hateful rhetoric making the rounds on social media makes that a stomach-turning affair as well. A more appealing prospect is the Wines of Winter event that same night. One could feasibly vote for mayor, then head downtown, have one too many, and find a designated driver.
In lieu of that, "Perry Mason" reruns have resurfaced on some obscure channel, and my husband takes to them like a blowfly takes to dog feces on a hot summer sidewalk. "House, M.D." reruns are available, too, and so are the ubiquitous "Law & Order" episodes, of which I never tire. If neither of those shows are available, I can always find a good book, listen to some music, or look at a test pattern, which is far less offensive than the sideshow the SOTU has become.