I started watching President Obama's sixth State of the Union address haunted by a recent profile of him in The New Yorker as a president who seems tired, inward-looking, and most alarmingly, hollowed out from years of protracted battle with the GOP. That was the image emblazoned in my mind when the president took the podium on Tuesday night.
But within hours it was replaced by a more haunting one: Tea Party Senator Mike Lee's (R-Utah) "Inequality Godzilla," a turn of phrase he coined during his response to the address. Speaking about the Affordable Care Act, known among us common folks as "Obamacare," Senator Lee said:
"...of course, Obamacare — all by itself — is an inequality Godzilla that has robbed working families of their insurance, their doctors, their wages and their jobs. Many Americans are now seeing why some of us fought so hard to stop this train wreck over the last four years."
The painterly image of an Inequality Godzilla was the kind that pleased the Twitterverse, leading a couple of bystanders to claim it the tweet of the night.
"Inequality Godzilla" http://t.co/qiMIU7v127 Best phrase of the night.— Brian Resnick (@B_resnick) January 29, 2014
OK, Mike Lee gets the line of the night: "Obamacare is an inequality Godzilla" http://t.co/hDVH9CKIpt— Suzy Khimm (@SuzyKhimm) January 29, 2014
Few bystanders offered to make sense of the term:
Mike Lee's speechwriter just really wanted to use the word, Godzilla, guys. Cut some slack, am I right?— Lindsay Dahl (@lindsaydoll) January 29, 2014
But really, it's a strange association that was probably conjured up by a staffer that has a tenuous-at-best grasp of popular culture and its proper forms of appropriations. And by strange, I mean laughable.
Why does Mike Lee hate Godzilla when it has the word "God" in it? Does he hate God?— Steve Marmel (@Marmel) January 29, 2014
However, despite the explicit lunacy of the association, it's still a rhetorical strike that will ring true in some ears.
On one level, this might lead us to believe that we are in a state of politics where a great deal of people aren't listening, or really even thinking, about the things being said or done. Before the State of the Union address Tuesday night, Slate's John Dickerson wrote a piece that deftly pointed out that the entire practice is rote and boring and ceremonial anyway, so why are we even watching it?
Because on another level, we all know that these people are saying and doing things on our behalf and we want to know what they say. And even if our reaction is to laugh, ridicule and criticize them, at least they know we won't let them slide and their mistakes will spawn a thousand memes. And in doing so, hopefully Senator Lee comes to realize that no, a health care law that seeks to offer insurance for low-income families is not akin to any kind of godzilla.