A nifty little piece from Monday's Times goes into the modern history of the phrase, "The state of the union is strong"—a speechwriting cliche that is now impossible for a president to avoid, lest he appear a negative Nancy. Like other irritating aspects of the President's annual address, this bit of fluff is the fault of Ronald Reagan, whose brand was optimism, and whose superpower was an ability to wring life from meaningless phrases. It was not always thus, says the Times!
Presidents once used other words to describe the state of our union. President Jimmy Carter liked to call it “sound.” President Harry S. Truman liked to call it “good.” President Lyndon B. Johnson, in a lyrical moment, described the state of the union in 1965 as “free and restless, growing and full of hope.”
And when things were not going well, they said so.
“I must say to you that the state of the union is not good,” President Gerald R. Ford said in 1975, citing high unemployment, slow growth and soaring deficits. He added, “I’ve got bad news, and I don’t expect much, if any, applause.”
To prevent future generations from being bored to death by their elected officials, I hereby provide a list of adjectives, free of charge, to describe our union's state. Because the speech is nothing but political theater—have I mentioned lately how much I hate that phrase?—it doesn't matter if the chosen adjective is accurate, or even sensical. It's Washington—nobody's listening anyway, not even Ted Nugent.
So, the state of the union is:
- Even flabbier than expected
- Sexually mature
- Stuck in traffic
- Increasingly horny
- Pretty drunk for a Tuesday