Pitch-perfect Bush State of the Union, right? Weird hostility to camera, like cornered ferret on meth?** Check. Apparent disregard for circumstances of vast majority of Americans? Check. Treating English language like ferret chew-toy? Check. Disjuncture between facial expressions and content of speech? Check. Policy prescriptions seemingly delivered to him by Xenu-vasal Tom Cruise.*** Totally. In sum, hilarious disengagement from the basic realities of the nation he leads?**** Sigh.

So what to do after watching something so horrid and sad as that? Well, I went to a party with a bunch of historians. Because historians like to party. The only problem? Keeping the papparazzi away. Natch. Anyway, after walking the red carpet and dealing with adoring fans, I asked my colleagues: has the state of the union ever been worse?

And here’s what we decided. Yes, there have been darker moments for the nation. Three of them. First, 1814, at the low ebb of the War of 1812, around the time the British sacked Washington. Second, the spring and early summer of 1863, when the Union couldn’t find a general to deal with Robert E. Lee’s treasonous hijinks. And third, 1933, before FDR’s New Deal began to alleviate the worst effects of the Depression.

So, that’s three times in more than two centuries that things have looked worse for the United States than they do right now. Thanks, President Bush. You totally rock out.

* Obviously, I’ve deployed the ever-popular double-entendre gambit: the speech sucked and so does the actual state of the union. Clever! But really: that was one horrible speech. And also: things aren’t so great right now in the US of A.

** Sorry ferrets, I know I shouldn’t hate on you like this. But Rudy! made me do it.

*** I’m so going to Mars on a rocket fashioned from the skulls of Islamic extremists and fueled by twigs from Bush’s Crawford “ranch.” I can’t wait.

**** Actually, not very funny at all. Do not watch in search of belly laughs. Or even chuckles. Probably not the place to go for giggles or chortles. Hell, just don’t watch unless you want to become terribly, terribly sad. For a long time.