I missed the State of the Union last night. [Pause.] Confession: I always miss the State of the Union address, and probably haven’t sat through one start to finish since the Reagan administration. The papers always run a transcript and exhaustive analysis. The late-night comics will mine it for jokes. If it actually produces news, that’ll be on the web within minutes. What do they need me for?
So instead, I opted to spend the evening at Border’s, watching Gerry Prokopowicz promote his new book (see right rail; it’s now officially On the Nightstand, although technically it’s in the kitchen at the moment). As our one-man advance team Brian Stouder reported last week, “Did Lincoln Own Slaves? And Other Frequently Asked Questions About Abraham Lincoln” a great, breezy read of a book that treads a careful line between egghead scholarship and popular appeal, suitable for long winter afternoons on the couch or short hits while making dinner. I first met Gerry when he was scholar-in-residence at the Lincoln Museum in Fort Wayne, an institution every local journalist got a chance to write about sooner or later.
My interest in Lincoln has always been casual, but the more I learn about him, the more interesting he becomes, particularly his oratory. For one of my Lincoln Museum stories I got to interview David Donald, whose Lincoln biography was new at the time, and we got off on one of those wonderful conversational tangents about the Second Inaugural speech, and how radical and brutally honest it was. Imagine a politician of today standing before the nation and saying:
If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”
It doesn’t quite sound like, “As they stand up, we’ll stand down,” does it? An unfair comparison, perhaps, but again, imagine any contemporary politician telling the nation, “We may be at war forever, and if so, we deserve it, so deal.”
It’s hard to get enthused about a modern State of the Union after that.
The bulk of the presentation was Q-and-A, as that’s the framework of the book. Some of the questions were good, others less so, but fittingly, the show-stopper came at the very end, when Gerry took one last question and a child’s piping voice rose from the back and queried, “Was Lincoln gay?”
“You’ll have to buy the book,” he said, and with that, it was on to the signing.
Bonus: I got to meet Del Szura, who comments here from time to time and is, in fact, a Pointer. Little by little, our influence spreads!
Everybody has probably seen this, the Hitler-is-a-Cowboys-fan YouTube thing, but I hadn’t until yesterday, so maybe there are a few who might still be surprised by it. If only they’d hired me to fix all the errors in the subtitles, though.
Hell hath no fury like the well-heeled given the high hat: An Oakland County real estate company is suing ticket brokers, alleging it spent nearly $100,000 on VIP tickets and celebrity party invitations at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards in Las Vegas but a company official and his clients were given the brush-off when they showed up at the pricey events. And here I thought the real-estate market was in the toilet. Not if they have that kind of cash to throw around, I guess.
The TV Club over at Slate found fault with a short exchange in Sunday’s episode of “The Wire,” in which an editor subtly upbraids another over his use of profanity in the newsroom. Which prompted Romenesko to ask for personal anecdotes of such encounters. The letters are starting to come in.
OK, folks. Have a good day, all of you, and I’ll try to do the same.