President Bush delivered a highly scripted and hyperbolically enriched “State of the Union” address last night. The time has long since passed when Presidents actually had the writing skills to prepare their own speeches so in a sense the speech is no more copywritable to George W. Bush than the White House is his White castle. The reaction flooding the airwaves and bloggy-eyed net this morning is, if I may go out on a limb here, partisan as usual. Historians of American history might wince at the opening salvo that “Yet the state of our Union has never been stronger,” but this line probably netted a few amens from executives of Exxon, whose 32 billion dollar profit last year was the most in history.

For those who study and follow events in the Middle East there was much to digest, at least those parts of the speech that were capable of being swallowed. It might come as a surprise to the vast majority of Afghan men that “Today women are free, and are part of Afghanistan’s new government.” Getting rid of the misogynist Taliban, or at least sending them back to their villages, did not ipso facto cause a feminist revolution. Now if this statement had been made when the Soviet-backed Marxist regime was in power, there could be no disputing it.

Then there was a message to the terrorists, who must be near total defeat since we have “captured, arrested, and rid the world of thousands of terrorists.” More specifically, “Even 7,000 miles away, across oceans and continents, on mountaintops and in caves — you will not escape the justice of this nation.” That may be true for the 13 Pakistan villagers (who are terrorists by default under the current rules of non-Geneva-convention engagement) killed two weeks ago in an airstrike, but perhaps the President’s aides forgot to tell him that in the latest video release from Al-Qaida there was a message to Bush from the second-rate Egyptian-born actor Ayman al-Zawaheri: “You missed me again.” Then there were the things left out. Consider the following: “Most of the 19 men who hijacked planes on September the 11th were trained in Afghanistan’s camps, and so were tens of thousands of others.” I guess we can be thankful that Terrorism 101 Training Methods “How to Hijack an Airplane with Box Cutters” is no longer offered. But I thought the majority of the 9/11 hijackers were in fact Saudis. But then I am getting ahead of myself, for the oil is yet to flow.

Having grown up on Marshall Dillon in Gunsmoke, I can relate to the President’s firm convictions. I seem to remember this line: “ But some governments will be timid in the face of terror. And make no mistake about it: If they do not act, America will.” Dodge City would not be the casino haven tourist trap it is today had the good old guys in pioneer days been timid. I could wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment if only one word was changed, replacing “timid” with “reckless.” In Afghanistan and Iraq it seems that time has stopped at High Noon, President Gary Cooper. The shootout between our over-stretched military and the insurgents is anything but OK because there is no way to corral them all. Every time we kill a terrorist, like in those video games with the cheat on, another one gets up and shoots back.

The President’s speech writer also misled Mr. Bush. Here is the administration most committed to exporting the principle (save the reality for after the chads are counted) of American style democracy to the Middle East. But I did read this right? “ Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people’s hope for freedom.” Iran for sure exports oil, which I have no trouble seeing as a perfect icon for international terrorism, but to my recollection none of the 9/11 hijackers were Iranian. And I was under the impression from reading the newspapers that President Ahmadenijad was in fact elected recently in a election which international monitors declared quite orderly.

Iraq also takes center-stage in the address last night. “ Iraq continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror. The Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade. This is a regime that has already used poison gas to murder thousands of its own citizens — leaving the bodies of mothers huddled over their dead children. This is a regime that agreed to international inspections — then kicked out the inspectors. This is a regime that has something to hide from the civilized world.” Now here I am confused by what the speechwriter put into the President’s mouth. I thought we liberated Iraq, so why are they still in the flaunting stage? The guy who wanted more nerve gas is in prison and for sure he is still flaunting. Saddam Hussein still thinks he is the President of Iraq. I hope President Bush has not started to believe him. Mothers still huddle over the dead bodies of their children, but the bombs come from sophisticated American weapons and not just the home-made devices exploding daily. The last sentence here is troubling. If in three years of occupation we have not been able to figure out what the Iraqi regime has (this is the present tense, is it not — or was it not in the speech alst night and now posted on the White House website?) to hide, they must be better hiders than we are seekers. Or, perhaps this is a symbolic reference to those tabloid pictures last summer of Saddam in his underwear. What could be hiding there? A scud missile?

I could be a typical pundit and just make fun of serious political rhetoric. So allow me to switch gears and offer two specific proposals based on the positive elements for the the State of Our Union. Any senators or congressmen who want to co-sponsor some sanity in our government are welcome to sign on and move forward.

1. Prsident Bush said, “It costs a lot to fight this war. We have spent more than a billion dollars a month — over $30 million a day — and we must be prepared for future operations.” Here is a practical solution to help the American people. Most of us are appalled that the profits for Exxon last year were in the range of $32 billion. I suggest we give the C.E.O a dollar for his effort to keep gas and heating oil prices down and claim eminent domain (Judge Alito will surely swing the court to vote for this) to the remaining almost $32 billion to pay off the total war bill for this year and for next year. If we are only spending a billion dollars a month to wage the war, this is in fact less than the monthly profit of Exxon. I am sure that the executives of Exxon are decent, patriotic Americans who would not flinch at making this sacrifice for the good of the country.

2. One of the shocking admissions last night by President Bush was that America is addicted to oil. This is the one thing he said that literally knocked my socks off (I have taken to wearing two pairs this winter because my heating bills are just too high). I had no idea how much of an addict I myself had become. A week does not go by without stopping at my local Exxon station and filling up my car’s tank. I guess using the credit card lulled me into thinking I wasn’t really paying that much. And I look the other way when the oil delivery man drags his long hose up to my house and feeds the oil-burner. Here is an area when I totally trust President Bush and his trusted advisors. If anyone should know about oil addiction it should be someone who used to work at the top of that industry. I can’t stop using my car all the time, but I can do something to make me feel better about this crisis. Here’s an idea. Why not have a campaign to “Just Say No to Oil, One Day at a Time.” We could even have a national holiday once a year in which no American is allowed to operate an oil-combustion engine. No doubt there would be plenty of Mexicans coming over the board to pick up the slack in needed services. And I myself am going to go our right now, call all my friends to meet a nearby bar and form “Oilyholics Anonymous.” From now on I am off the station wagon. Cheers and fill ‘er up.

Daniel Martin Varisco