Monday, January 30, 2006

During Confederate Meeting Bush looks for a script he can schtick to - World - days before his State of the Union speech, George Bush did a warm-up gig at the annual Alfalfa Club dinner in Washington.

You haven't heard of the Alfalfa Club? Well, neither have most Americans. Founded in 1913 by a group of wealthy locals, it apparently exists for the sole purpose of holding a yearly banquet to honour the Confederate Civil War general Robert E. Lee.
Over the decades it has become a highlight date on the Washington social calendar, an event where the president polishes his oratorical skills on the eve of the State of the Union address.

Although the dinner, attended by Washington movers and shakers and what passes for celebrities in Washington - Martha Stewart was there - was closed to the media, copies of the Bush speech are circulating in the nation's capital.

In it he raised all the issues that will be covered in his State of the Union address today and a few that most probably won't make it. Like his take on the gay cowboy movie, Brokeback Mountain.

"It's always good to see Vice-President Dick Cheney," he told the revellers.

"Lynne Cheney and Laura were out of town recently so I called up Dick and said 'Why don't we go to a movie'? He said 'Great idea, let's go to a cowboy movie'.

"Yep, finally went to see Brokeback Mountain. Let me tell you, whooo-eee.

"Dick sat through the movie, didn't say a word. We came out, after a while he says 'nice horses'. I say 'yep'. Then he becomes real quiet again and kind of serious. I knew something was on his mind. Finally he turned to me and said: 'You don't suppose the Lone Ranger and Tonto …"'

On the controversy involving domestic eavesdropping without court approval, Mr Bush was both defiant and puzzled.

"You know, you can't please some people no matter what you do," he said. "Half the time they say I'm isolated and don't listen. Then when I do listen, they say I need a warrant."

Mr Bush acknowledged members of his family in the room, including his brothers Jeb and Marvin and his father, George, the 41st president.

"My Dad, Ole '41, is with us," he said. "A little earlier as we were getting ready, Dad was talking to Jeb, Marvin and me. Surrounded by his sons, he got a little choked up. Amidst the tears, he said: 'Boys, this evening would be perfect if only your new brother, Bill Clinton, could've been here'.

"Mom's here. Mom, you got in any trouble lately?"

Mr Bush finished by making it clear he was impressed with the performance of Samuel Alito, his nominee for the Supreme Court.

And he explained why Mr Alito's wife burst out crying at one stage and had to leave the committee room. "Martha Alito won America's heart," he said. "What a warm and wonderful woman. I talked to her. You wanna know what really caused her to cry at those hearings? Boredom."

It remains to be seen just how close to this speech the State of the Union address will be. It depends, according to Administration officials, how the Alfalfa Club address does in hastily organised focus group research.

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