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images photo by nytimes.com

President of the United States finish that sentence, and in doing so give you a sensible and coherent framework for understanding the complex and sometimes frightening world you inhabit, you listened for 53 minutes, and you listened in vain. The nation George W. Bush described in his final State of the Union address to Congress bore a fairly strong resemblance to the nation as we knew it back in, say, 2003, but it could not be passed off as a vision of the America we see in January 2008. Similarly, the agenda he outlined had a musty whiff to it; it was so full of hardy perennials, of ideas whose time had come and long since gone, that an observer was left wondering if some speechwriter’s assistant mistakenly loaded the wrong text into the teleprompter – with the unexpected result that Bush delivered the whole thing without ever noticing that the words he spoke had been spoken (by him) before, and were oddly detached from both current events and current attitudes.