Tuesday, January 23, 2007

State of the Union

I know there's a tradition here at TPS at paying homage to every political junkie's favorite night of the year, the President's State of the Union address. So I thought I'd keep it going with a few thoughts tonight. My longtime criticism of President Bush is well-known, so I'll begin with some praise.

I was happy to hear Bush's simplified tones. No stark denunciations like the "Axis of Evil," no shady intelligence like the "uranium sold by Niger" line, no bold and politically risky proposals like the social security reform of his 1st term, and no overtly thumping-his-chest "America rocks and everyone else sucks" attitudes, all of which had been seen in States of the Union past. This time Bush kept it simpler and, in turn, I think much more dignified.

When you look at it, he merely presented a series of brief talking points -- none of which enthused a great majority of the chamber. The Republicans liked his message of "staying the course" in Iraq, fighting terrorism, increasing the size of the military, and new tax deductions. The Democrats, on the other hand, applauded mightily at the mention of a guest worker program, our dependency on foreign oil, increasing ethanol subsidies, and addressing the "global climate change."

That's quite a change from past speeches in which Bush attempted to drive home his points to both the Congress and the American public. Bush knows he has lost the Congress. He knows he has lost the American people. And this speech, like his Iraq policy itself, seemed to have the attitude of "let's pick up the pieces and see what we can do with them."

And in the end, the answer is usually "nothing." You end up throwing them out. It's too much work to glue them back together and they'll never look as good again. So you wait until you're able to buy a new one and then you replace it.

Such is the presidency of George W. Bush as we wait for 2008.

I will give the President credit for properly acknowledging Nancy Pelosi as the new Speaker of the House. I do think it is a big deal. And I think that he addressed it tonight with class. Afterall, there's no doubt that Mr. Bush is a good person. Even his critics should concede that. There's plenty of criticism to be saved for his politics, but I'm not surprised that he was gracious to Ms. Pelosi.

Also, did anyone else find it interesting how Bush kept the traditional visiting dignitary applause for the very end of the speech? Usually you get those out of the way somewhere up front, right? I guess he was hoping that the mistakes of Iraq or the failure to establish border security might be blurred by all 7'6" of Dikembe Mutombo for those last few minutes?

Finally, in a trivial note, I commend Bush for ending with a simple, straight-forward look at the audience and saying, "God bless." It felt to me like he actually meant what he said when he uttered those all-powerful words that have sadly become cliched. As a Christian, this felt good. I've gotten so tired of the words, "Thank you and may God bless the United States of America." There's certainly nothing wrong with that sentiment, but after hearing 4 presidents over the course of my political lifetime conclude seemingly every speech with those 11 words they've gotten a tad stale. Bush's words "God bless" were more consistent with his simplified tone and personally I found it a welcomed change.


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