TOO BAD OSCAR nominations were announced yesterday.

George W. Bush certainly deserves one for his portrayal last night of a president earnestly engaging the nation with bold, new domestic plans and workable policies to win in Iraq.

It was quite a performance.

It put me in mind of comedic actor Jon Lovitz, formerly of "Saturday Night Live," and a skit he'd do punctuated with a flourish and an explanation that what he's really up to is "ACTING!"

The president, somehow affecting sincerity, acted as if his administration hadn't foment the biggest foreign-policy blunder in U.S. history, an ill-advised war based on misinformation, costing the country thousands of lives, billions of dollars, worldwide enmity and diminished resources for needs at home.

In his first ever State of the Union address to a Congress of the opposition party, the president instead sought to suck up to Democrats by playing to goals on health care, energy and the environment.

He even said something about addressing "the challenge of global climate change."

It was as if born-again W. was born again.

You don't think it's a diversion, do you? You don't think he's saying, "Hey, hey, don't look at that thing in Iraq costing $8 billion a month and, so far, more than 3,000 U.S. lives; look at the nice things I want to do on health care, energy and the environment"?

Never mind it comes from a president without political portfolio, with public approval ratings as low as Jimmy Carter's during the Iranian hostage debacle and Richard Nixon's during Watergate, and after midterm elections in which voters said they want substantive change.

"The state of our union is strong," said Bush.

He must not only talk with Barney.

By my count, he was 22 minutes into his 49-minute address before there was reference to the war.

He talked, without saying "surge," about deploying 24,000 more troops, part of a controversial new course he calls "the best chance for success."

And he offered the mandatory Texas-tough talk:

"To win the war on terror we must take the fight to the enemy."

Yeah, well, as U.S. Rep. Jack Murtha, D-Pa., just said in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "Wars cannot be won with slogans."

Domestic stuff stressed by Bush included cutting gasoline usage by 20 percent in 10 years and a health-care plan that smells to me like it's already dead on arrival.

The rest was a litany of what the country's needed for years: Balance the budget, cut the deficit, get affordable/available health care, fix Social Security, do medical-

liability reform and new immigration laws and reduce dependency on foreign oil.

It was nice he was gracious to Nancy Pelosi, and I liked his honoring (former Sixer) Dikembe Mutombo for humanitarian work in Africa, but please don't pretend you're all of a sudden serious about doing things you've talked about doing since before you were elected.

What's sadly clear is this president is better at greeting than governing.

At least last night we were spared past pablum such as "protecting" marriage by amending the Constitution or taking steroids out of professional sports.

But mostly this was a spew of inside-Washington jargon (can you believe he talked about "earmarks" in a State of the Union?) to be parsed by TV talking heads.

It had little to do with the lives of real people whose tax dollars pay for the pomp and circumstance surrounding this now-meaningless annual exercise.

Oh, and my nominee for best-supporting role in the State of the Union production? The clapping seals seated in Congress whose applause (an annoying 63 times last night) seems to validate the bunk we're offered year after year. *

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