DESPITE THE HYPE, tonight's State of the Union address is certain to disappoint. Sure, President Bush will do his best to work us into a frenzy, as he did in his most recent televised address, with his talk of a vast cabal of brutal forces afoot, "unconstrained by conscience," opposed to "our deepest values," determined to view the world as a "giant battlefield."
But even as he spoke of this very exciting giant battlefield, the president just sat there at his desk, staring blankly into the TelePrompTer. Is that any way to build suspense? Why weren't there flames shooting into the sky on either side of his head? Why didn't the camera crew get some extreme close-ups with a shaky, hand-held camera? Did Karl Rove forget to cue the nerve-jangling, clock-ticking sound from "24"?
Because Bush refuses to take any tips from the Great and Powerful Oz's playbook, the only way to pump up the shock and awe is by playing a drinking game that's custom-made for the State of the Union address. (Kids, don't try this at home. Adults, don't try this anywhere else but home.)
The game is simple enough for even your average registered voter to understand. Basically, every time Bush says "terror," "terrorism," "terrorist," "war on terror" or "Terror Dome," you drink.
Also drink when the president winks, nods and points at someone in the audience in rapid succession; drink each time he refers to 9/11 or uses the word "nuke-u-lar," and drink something bitter when he says that "the state of our union is strong."
Whenever there's a close-up of a sour-faced Democrat, drink. If it's Hilary Clinton, Ted Kennedy or Harry Reid, drink twice.
When Bush says "protect" as in "protect America," "protect the lives of Americans" or "protect our right to eavesdrop on the phone calls of any American," drink. If he refers to his solemn right to spy on antiwar activists as the "Terrorist Surveillance Program," drink three times.
Also, drink whenever the president uses the word "security," as in the "security of all Americans" or "a secure nation." If he mentions "Social Security," turn the volume up; you didn't hear him correctly. If he talks about "securing an exit strategy in Iraq," drink, then look outside to see if the sky is falling.
When the president alludes to "tax reform," "tax credits" or "tax relief," give a big shout-out to the federal budget deficit -- then drink.
Drink each time the president begins a charming anecdote about some folks from a small red-state town; drink twice when the camera cuts to said folks. If the president reports that his chat with these fine people made it clear to him that the administration's current course is the proper one, drink half a beer, then tell the person sitting next to you that it's clear to you that your current course toward inebriation is the proper one as well.
Every time the president smiles or chuckles when he's talking about something scary and awful, like giant battlegrounds and forces of evil, smile and chuckle along with him -- Haw haw haw! -- then kick your dog.
Drink each time the president mentions "free elections" in Iraq, or suggests that the Iraqi elections are a sure sign that democracy and freedom are spreading across the globe. Drink when the president mentions "free elections" in the West Bank, and if he suggests that the Palestinian elections are a sure sign that democracy and freedom are spreading across the globe, finish your beer, throw the bottle at the wall and yell, "Praise Allah!"
By the end of the president's speech, I personally guarantee that not only will you experience all the nail-biting anticipation and excitement that you crave, you'll also feel a hell of a lot better about the state of this country -- that is, if you're still conscious. Just don't try to walk, talk, parent small children, drive or operate heavy machinery. In fact, this game is almost guaranteed to kill you -- at least until January of 2009.