I tried to give the Gipper an even break. I forced myself to take a long swim in the heated pool here at the Hollinshead House (thanks for the use of the typewriter). I spent the day preparing. I consumed massive quantities of café con leche and Gulf shrimp. I even popped down to Big Daddy’s and picked up a bottle of fine Jamaican rum, so that I’d be open and receptive, but it wasn’t enough. We needed more than a helluva good speech. We needed the truth. An apology would have been nice. An explanation of our failed foreign policy would have been even better. Instead we get a pep talk, written by a committee chaired by Pat Buchanan and delivered by an aging actor who may not be very bright but who’s never had a problem taking direction or delivering a pitch. Instead of the truth we got great PR and good visuals: REAGAN GIVES GOOD SPEECH. But it isn’t enough, and frankly it’s disturbing and vaguely distressing to think that the White House believed it would do the trick.
It sure looked like Congress had a good time, though. The members’ orchestrated applause reminded me of drunken Shriners at a bowl game, and their warm and enthusiastic response to his speech was bizarre. Watching the Honorable (with a capitol H) members applaud Reagan as he accused them of being soft on communism and fingered them as the source of the deficit was surreal, or the most cynical applause I ever saw, or both, depending on which side of the aisle I sat on.
The networks did an outstanding job this year. For the most part they bent over backwards to avoid the instant analysis that always incurs the wrath of Buchanan’s minions in the White House press office. Except for NBC, that is, which actually started its analysis before the speech began and at one point, in its excitement, actually stepped on one of Reagan’s lines.
Ted Koppel certainly deserves special kudos for finding Gary Hart in North Carolina and giving him a forum from which to campaign. I only wish that the revolutionary guards in Iran had allowed us to hear Rafsanjani’s analysis. But they did not, and that’s too bad. I’m always interested in what Iranian moderates have to say.
Frankly, everyone I spoke to down here in the Keys managed to avoid this State of the Union message. It seemed strangely irrelevant, and besides, it was running opposite both the all-weather station and a basketball game. At Sloppy Joe’s and Rick’s, just about everyone agreed that the best damn state of the union was Monroe County, Florida-the Conch Republic. The only good news for folks down here was to be found in the Democratic response, when Speaker Jim Wright, from Texas, let slip that Reagan plans to cut in half funding for the antidrug programs. Now, that’s the sort of government that the folks hereabouts like best: the one that governs least. If they’d just cut the military budget in half, we could all get some sleep.
I have to go now. Part two of the special four-part report on the relationship between heavy metal, Satanism, senseless slayings, and teen suicide is about to come on Channel 4 from Miami. And of course I have to get ready for the Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. Remember, I may already have won.
Authentic Key-Lime Pie
In a large bowl, combine four egg yolks and one can sweetened condensed milk. Slowly add three ounces of Key-line juice. Mix well. Pour mixture into graham-cracker crust and chill. Top with whipped cream or combine beaten egg whites with four tablespoons confectioners sugar to make meringue topping. Bake meringue for 12 minutes at 350 degrees. Pie needs no cooking.