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Hyperbolic Gaga

Reported by Nancy - January 20, 2005 -

I knew that watching Bush's inauguration festivities on FNL today (1/20) would be revolting, & I anticipated that his speech would be the longest 17 minutes of my life. But I was wrong: it was the worshipful bloviating afterwards that was most excruciating.

When the "speech" ended at 12:19pm (all times ET), Brit Hume offered some brief bloviating ("perhaps no President has ever proclaimed it [freedom] in so ambitious a way") & a few quick quotes from the speech before Fox cut back to the "festivities" to listen to the Marine Band play a medley of ... stuff & a choir sing a Christian hymn ("God of Our Fathers"). At 12:25pm Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell read a prayer that was characterized by some [comment: doncha just love that particular Fox circumlocution?] as "non-denominational" but which ended with an invocation to Jesus Christ. At 12:31pm USAF Sgt Bradley Bennett sang the "Star Spangled Banner" accompanied by the band. Throughout most of this, FNL displayed a regular-sized lower-third banner reading "Presidential Inauguration" (by comparison, CNN & MSNBC had much quieter icons giving more info & nicely tucked in a lower corner so you could see more of the picture being broadcast).

And then the adoration began. Brit Hume led off by calling the speech "striking for its simplicity." Peggy Noonan (former speechwriter for Reagan) was saccharine enough to put viewers into a diabetic coma. She called the speech "startling" (& repeated that more than once) & said it "packed quite a punch" especially when it "asserted that undemocratic govts throughout the world had just better straighen up." Bill Kristol trumped Noonan by likening Bush's speech to Lincoln's inaugural address, calling it "simple" yet "a deep reading of Lincoln" & noting that the "quotation [sic] from Leviticus was a Lincoln favorite." Kristol said the speech was "one of the most powerful, impressive speeches I've seen an American President give."

Mort Kondracke, not to be outdone, chimed in that he found "echoes of Kennedy" in the speech, & said there was "no question about the ambition" on the "foreign policy level" & on the "domestic level" Bush was also talking about "reforming" [sic] the New Deal by "return[ing] ownership of their destiny to the people themselves." Kondracke said the speech included as "sweeping an agenda as you can possibbly imagine." Barnes said he liked 2 things in particular & proceeded to blather on about the difference between "moralist vs realist in foreign policy" & claiming that "he [Bush] knocks down that barrier" [comment: the one that Barnes just created]. Noonan noted that "God is in here from beginning to end" & Kristol said that Bush was "very carefyl not to claim that 'God's on our side'."

At 12:41pm, FNL -- which had been showing a split screen of the bloviators & of a variety of post-inauguration scenes -- cut to a full-screen shot of the "President's Room" to watch people milling around for a couple of minutes.

Hume got back to the business at hand by saying that Bush was promoting freedom in a "much more pro-active way" & saying that the phrase " 'ending tyranny in our world' is a big deal." He noted that there was only "one very brief reference to Iraq" which kept the speech on a "thematic rather than programmatic level." He then asked his panel which phrases they liked best.

Noonan sneered that there were no "Kennedy-esque sounbite lines" but it "will be remembered for its simplicity," for its "sweeping statements", & "perhaps a new hardline reality." Kristol said there were "many elegant & eloquent sentences" but his favorite was "it is the policy of the US ..." because that "sets a commitment that future admins will have to stick to." Noonan interjected that the speech was "stark." Kondracke's favorite phrase was "America's vital interests & our deepest beliefs are now one" which he felt reflected "both a realist & an idealist" because "he [Bush] thinks it can be done, he thinks he's done it."

Hume then went to Fox reporters who were not part of his talking-head panel. Jim Angle found the speech "extraordinarily ambitious" & said the "most interesting thing about Bush is he has since 9/11 questioned a long-standing US policy" that "embraced dictators who supported US interests abroad" but "he clearly believes that having allowed tyranny to thrive" has hurt the US in the long run. Hume suggested that Bush is "associating himself with a force spreading in the world" that is "perhaps separate from the US" & Angle agreed, saying that "being on the side of freedom is our vital interest." Carl Cameron [comment: who has been rewarded by Fox for his shenanigans during the recent presidential campaign with a promotion to Chief White House correspondent] called the speech "extraordinary" & said that "already some Dems are trying to see if there's some softer language" [comment: he trailed off into reading some quotes from the speech & never quite finished this thought, if indeed there was a thought beyond generic Dem-bashing].

Back with his panel, Hume asked what they thought we'd be likely to hear from critics. Barnes was stumped, saying "I dunno" because the speech was "very lofty" but one "hollow argument:" might be that Bush has "bitten off more than he can chew." He suggested that "critics, Dems who don't like the Bush presidency should wait for the State of the Union" speech. Kondracke said he though one criticism might be "are there exceptions to policy" of supporting freedom around the world, giving as an example "what about Saudi Arabia?" & saying that "Vladimir Putin is committing atrocities every day in Chechnya" but the US doesn't criticize that. Hume was quick to point out that Kondracke didn't know if Bush was talking to Putin about it privately, & Kondracke admitted that was true, but countered that there have been no public statements. Noonan thought that "Dems will knock" 2 things: it "lacked a tone of modesty" & it "lacked practicality." Kristol again upped the ante, saying "If I were a snotty academic critic" he would "pick on the last sentence" as showing "hubris" & being "too grandiose." Kondracke observed that the "risk in making that criticism is to appear small-minded."

Comment: All of this was brought to viewers without even the courtesy of a commercial break so you could go throw up.