I, John: One citizen's official response to the State of the Union speech


Who cares what you think?.

End of response.

For the 8th time in a row, I’ve found better things to do than watch our so-called president perform the annual feeding of the ducks, also known as the State of the Union pep rally. I trust that if anything truly wonderful or horrible transpired I’ll find out about it soon enough.

I’ve only read one thing about the speech so far: this guy’s comments seem to be about right.

I swear, there’s no better commentary on the United States Congress during the reign of Herr George W. Bush, peace be upon him, than I, Claudius, which I watched again this year. For a rueful break from CSPAN sometime, check out its brilliant depiction of the cowardly, self-regarding, debauched, oligarchic Roman Senate abdicating its role in governing the republic, ceding power to a succession of vipers, megalomaniacs and madmen whilst holding on to the the perks and trappings of power that come with ostensibly representing vox populi and tell me if that doesn’t remind you of a certain deliberative body currently occupying space in the general Redskins/Nationals/Orioles/Wizards/Hoyas viewing area. To push the analogy further, Is our Georgie more like Nero or more like Caligula? Ah, who gives a fuck. I’m sure I don’t. I’m just waiting for our Claudius to show up. Who will it be? Who will be our calculating idiot-who-wasn’t, who saw all, never missed a trick, bided his time until his country was willing to accept his radical return to her best, noblest ideals? It could have been Al Gore, but alas, we lacked a Praetorian Guard to kidnap him and force him into office, will he or no.


  1. I rather think that the situation with Congress is much worse than that of the Roman Senate in Graves’ Suetonius-driven account of the early principate. Recall that over eighty percent of the Roman Republican Senate fell at Pharsalus and Philippi opposing Caesar for Pompey or the Triumvirate for the assassins of Caesar. The remainder were servile toward Augustus and his successors because they had been battered by twenty years of civil war and proscriptions, and were willing to cede power to anyone who brought peace. Our Congress, on the other hand, has little of that excuse for being the craven, cowardly, debauched oligarchy they have become. And the best evidence is that the worst of the Julio-Claudians, Caligula, killed fewer people in his entire reign than Bush has killed Iraqi civilians on average per month since the invasion.

  2. Greg,

    You are quite right to defend the actions of the better members of the Roman Senate. As you clearly know, the “I, Claudius” stories which take place thirty and forty years after that time depict a much more decadent bunch.

    But yes, you’re right, thanks for the amplification. Which is even more depressing.

  3. John:

    Did I mention that among Greg’s other credentials, he used to teach history? And that he is fluent in Latin (as well as Arabic, Pharsee, German, and a bunch of other languages). Probably also didn’t mention the stint in Vietnam either.

  4. Wow, Harold, I didn’t know any of that stuff, although I’ve picked up by observation that Greg is indeed a smart and insightful boy. Could he be our Claudius, perhaps? I know it’s a long shot, just say’n.

  5. What is to be done?

    Surely a new Claudius is not the right answer.

    As a computer scientist, I was raised in the “heavy AI” tradition in which you try to understand the problem and model a solution. On the grounds that a society gets the government it deserves, I feel that the fundamental problem is somehow reflected in the 1/3 of Americans that still support Bush. But try as I may, I don’t understand how this can be so. Without that understanding, the heavy AI approach is failing me.

    The “light AI” approach is to use heuristics and biochemical models when you don’t actually understand the fundamental problem. What general tactics and strategies have been successful when a civilization drifts?

    If you believe this account, playing dumb may have worked for Claudius personally (although not in the end), but I don’t think he or military king-making turned out to be a good strategy for the next 1.5 millenia of western civilization.

  6. “…we lacked a Praetorian Guard to kidnap him and force him into office, will he or no.”

    You must not watch much news. The Media WAS the Praetorian Guard. The fact that they were unsuccessful in their attempted coup is a testament to their waning influence in American life.

  7. Hmmmm. . . The media trying to put Al Gore into the presidency? You mean this media?


  8. Christian Friedrich Bremser

    1. As far as I’m concerned, Suetonious is less reliable than Fox News. He’s supposed to have cross-verified different accounts, but read “The Twelve Caesars” and then tell me how credulous he either was or expected his readers to be.

    2. Caligula may have killed less *Romans* than Bush did Iraqis, but the proper comparison would be with the number of non-Romans that were slaughtered by the Roman armies, as a percentage of the overall population. They’re all war criminals. Of course, no Roman pretended to kill in the name of freedom …

    3. Blame the Senate, fine, but keep in mind that both it and W were elected By The People themselves, with a few small exceptions in Florida, Ohio, and every county served by Diebold machines. To misquote my favorite beer-swilling racist, it is impossible to underestimate the intelligence of the American people. Get ready for President McCain.

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