The Automata Leap Up

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When I was a kid I checked out of the traveling Bookmobile an even-then-elderly book about the prologue to World War II; I think it was The House that Hitler Built, by Stephen Roberts. I didn’t really read it, but I remember one sentence that I think was in that book. It was about the Reichstag, which was full of Nazis. The author says that at every remark Hitler addressed to these legislative nonentities, “all the automata” would “jump up and shout.”

You see the application to President Biden’s state of the union speech, which was interrupted by applause 91 times.

The Constitution says of the president that “he shall from time to time give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” That’s it. President Washington’s first state of the union address was 1,088 words long, and it was sent to Congress in writing. That was good enough; they could read it if they had the time. Until the administration of the pompous Mr. Woodrow Wilson, that’s the way the speech was handled. Big deal.

Who would write stuff like that? More to the point: who would jump up and applaud it?


But now it’s on television, it lasts for an hour and a half, and it is conceded in advance to be so full of idiocies that pundits spend their time discussing the various kinds of trickery it will contain and whether these acts of cunning will succeed in finding enough fools to believe them.

A sample of this year’s attempted cunning is a passage in which Biden claims that America is “the only nation that can be defined by a single word: possibilities.”

What the hell? Who would write stuff like that? More to the point: who would jump up and applaud it? The Senate and House of the United States of America, that’s who.

I don’t need to tell you how bad, how very bad, the whole of that speech was. I’ll just mention that at the end Biden yelled, “Go get him!” Nobody knows what he meant by that, but almost everyone in the audience was cheering when he said it.


  1. Michael F.S.W. Morrison

    Typical comment. That is, typically excellent.
    Now if you, or anybody, could teach Joe Biden to be as pithy, as lucid, not to mention as brief.
    Ah, then maybe someone could teach the “automata” rational, reasonable response.
    Yesterday, Wednesday, the first day after the SOTU speech, a video of the apparently even more out-of-it Nancy Pelosi, and her bizarre facial expressions and, especially, hand movements, had already been viewed nearly two million times!
    What seems to have happened: Pelosi and Schumer and their minions had been coached to be prepared to leap and applaud, the places in the speech had been marked for them … and they lost their places.
    The cameras caught Schumer at one point where he had lost his place and he jumped up too soon, glanced around at everybody else not jumping up, briefly looked sheepish, but he was only a few seconds too early, and the speech reached the proper inanity so the others finally joined him.
    Seriously, even to cynical, skeptical me, that was embarrassing.
    And somehow, SOMEHOW, those (harsh pejorative deleted)s think they are qualified to lead “our great democracy”!

  2. Scott Robinson

    Dear Stephen,

    Your comments about the aftereffects of the Biden’s State of the Union speech enlightened me to what’s meant by people when they say somebody is a “smooth talker”. It means that no matter what they said, it went down easy. It wasn’t bitter and upset your stomach. Needless to say, Joe Biden is not a smooth talker, his speeches are more like a bumpy ride. The automatons were supposed to be like sugar to mask the bitterness.

    Acting School for Congress,

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