WASHINGTON — Whoa! That was quite the steroid-infused performance. Who's the guy's political consultant — Russell Crowe? He was so in-your-face, smirking his trademark smirk, it was disturbing to think of him in charge of the military. It's a good thing he stopped drinking and started talking about God.
You wonder how many votes he scared off with that testosterone festival: the taunting message, the self-righteous geographic litany of support? The Philippines. Thailand. Italy. Spain. Poland. Denmark. Bulgaria. Ukraine. Romania. The Netherlands. Norway. El Salvador.
Can you believe
His State of the Union address took his swaggering sheriff routine to new heights. "America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country," he vowed.
Translation: Hey, we don't need no stinking piece of paper to bring it on in other countries. If it feels good, we'll do it, and we'll decide later why we did it. You lookin' at me?
Yes, Howard, you know you're in trouble when Chris Matthews says you make him look like Jim Lehrer; when David Letterman compares you to a hockey dad; when The New York Post suggests you have a "God complex." (As Alec Baldwin's twisted doctor said in "Malice": "You ask me if I have a God complex? Let me tell you something. I am God.")
Once Michael Dukakis got in trouble when he failed to get angry when asked how he would react if his wife were raped and murdered.
But Dr. Dean's snarly, teeth-baring Iowa finale was so Ross-Perot-scare-off-the-women-and-horses crazy that some Democrats on Capitol Hill, already anxious about the tightly wound doctor, confessed they could not imagine that jabbing finger anywhere near The Button.
But Republicans were thrilled when Mr. Bush strutted up onstage on Tuesday night to basically tell the country that if you don't vote for him in November, you're giving up in the war on terrorism. "We've not come all this way — through tragedy, and trial and war — only to falter and leave our work unfinished," he asserted, as if all those Democrats racing from Iowa to New Hampshire in the middle of the night were crying out to the voters: "Falter! Falter!"
Dr. Dean's poll numbers are diving because people freezing in New Hampshire think he's too hot.
President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney are better at looking cool. But their dissing the U.N. — that palace of permission slips — and their doctrine of pre-emption are just as hot, and so was Mr. Bush's cocky implicit defense of the idea that if you whack one Middle East dictator, the rest will fall in line. "Nine months of intense negotiations involving the United States and Great Britain succeeded with Libya, while 12 years of diplomacy with Iraq did not," he said. "For diplomacy to be effective, words must be credible, and no one can now doubt the word of America."
Maybe he's right, but what about Bill Clinton's line that unless we want to occupy every country in the world, maybe our policy should also concentrate on making friends instead of targets? The president and vice president like to present a calm, experienced demeanor, but their foreign policy is right out of the let's-out-crazy-the-bad-guys style of Mel Gibson's cop in "Lethal Weapon" movies.
For proof of how intemperate their policy has been, compare this year's State of the Union with last year's. Last year it was all about Iraq's frightening weapons. This year the only reference was to "dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations."
Would Americans have supported a war to go get "program activities?" What is a program activity? Where is the White House speechwriters' ombudsman?