There’s a Russian joke from the bad old days when Leonid Brezhnev and the Communist Party ran the country.
One worker in a state industry runs into another and sternly notes: “I didn’t see you at the last Party meeting.” The other guy shrugs and replies: “If I had known it was the last Party meeting, I would have been there.”
Perhaps it was the welcome thought that it was George W. Bush’s last State of the Union message that turned the legislative giants on Capitol Hill absolutely giddy this week and provoked a spectacle of fawning, applauding, cheering and jumping to their feet by lickspittles of both political parties.
They assembled worthies treated President Bush like a conquering hero, cheering his recycled fear-mongering, his stern demands that Congress give him everything he wants or else, even the very smirks on his face.
Behind him sat Vice President Dick Cheney and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and, at this juncture, it's hard to say which of the two has done the greatest damage to the Republic. Cheney has the edge by virtue of seniority — seven long years to do his worst. But Pelosi of the loyal opposition rings up points for all she's done and failed to do in 13 months of caving, caviling and cowardice in her dealings with the White House.
The nation is sliding inexorably into an economic recession, largely thanks to President Bush and his cronies, who not only let loose the expensive dogs of war but also turned a blind eye as the dogs of corporate greed looted the country and the Treasury. It's their most recent wretched excess that triggered the financial woes while they profited from selling home mortgages to people who couldn’t afford the payments and then bundled all the bad loans into a pill that poisoned the banking system worldwide.
Never fear, though. The president and the folks on Capitol Hill will rescue us by sending out income tax rebates of $600 to virtually everyone — even those who didn’t pay any income tax — and urging all to rush to the mall to spend us back to economic health.
Proving that his charity knows no bounds, the president also demanded that Congress make permanent all the big tax breaks that Republicans in the highest brackets have enjoyed for five or six years, which otherwise to their shock and awe may expire before long.
After all, the new welfare program or pump-priming effort will cost the taxpayers a good deal less than the $171 billion we'll spending on the Iraq War this year. But that’s only if we don’t add in the $40 billion (and rising) of hot-off-the-printing-presses paper that the Federal Reserve has pumped into the money markets in a courageous effort to rescue some of the biggest profiteers and perpetrators of the sub-prime mortgage swindle.
The president was kind enough to make no mention in his speech of our $9 trillion national debt, largely of his creation, which may prove to be his longest lasting and most painful legacy, along with his wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He issued another flurry of veto threats over the stalled bill to extend the revised law expanding the government’s right to intercept and sift through virtually all electronic communications in America in search of suspicious activity. Congress seems quite willing to sign away our Constitutional rights and protections, but has been reluctant to grant blanket immunity to the telecommunications companies that gave government snoopers illegal access both before and after 9/11.
The president said, in essence, that if there’s no immunity for the big corporations, then he'll veto any extension of the law — then we’ll all really be sorry and it will be the Democrats’ fault when al Qaida attacks Washington, D.C. again, or maybe the Mall of America or Los Angeles Airport.
Meantime, out on the campaign trail, what pass for the political heavyweights in both parties are busy bashing each other around the head and shoulders in a desperate battle to win the White House and inherit all that George W. hath wrought and will leave behind. Such gluttony for punishment might be cause for psychiatric intervention.
The majority of Americans seem to be paying little heed to the unfolding disasters, or at least to no more than one unfolding disaster at a time, as they sink ever deeper into attention span deficit disorder and the news out of Hollywood.
Only eleven months and three weeks, more or less, and Bush 43 will light out for Texas, smirking all the way.