My reaction to the State of the Union Address

My reaction to the State of the Union Address

I somehow made it all the way through the State of the Union address last night. Much as I disagree with the Bush administration, I even found him unusually appealing.

I actually had the thought, “Well, maybe most of this administration’s ugliness is Cheney. Maybe Bush means some of what he is saying here.” I thought he really tried to appeal to our hopefulness at a very sour time – that showed some good leadership. But that’s about it.

So many platitudes, so little straight talk.

He opened with the death of Coretta Scott King. At least he kept his remarks short and honored her as best he could, considering everything.

Isolationist? I haven’t heard anyone advocating that America should be isolationist or retreating from the world. I guess everyone can get behind that – attack a position no-one holds. Actually, it seems that this administration might benefit from more open debates on how to engage with the rest of the world in more effective ways. The costs of our invasion of Iraq – all the costs (ethical, diplomatic, financial, etc.) – have yet to be justified. I sincerely hope that his view of Iraq is not as simplistic as his few comments suggest. Probably just dumbing down.

Ditto for terrorists, but this is even more troubling. He seems to view the terrorists as a singular force, when it is really a mutating, changing and global set of loose alliances. He hasn’t got at what it will take to defeat them if he is concentrating on nations.

Interesting that he went back and forth from inaccurate representations of Democratic views to words about bipartisanship and working together. He suggests that they are soft on terrorism? Please. In my darker moments, I wonder how far this administration would go to bolster those claims.

The Rule of Law – I can’t believe he’s trying to wrap his illegal surveillance of Americans in 9/11 again. The claims he is making on the NSA spying scandal are pretty much to be expected – and really it’s probably all he can do right now. Of course, everything he said is problematic from a variety of perspectives, but that’s all playing out elsewhere. Personally, I believe this president violated federal law, but feels secure enough about it to brag. Bad sign.

“Human-animal hybrids”? What? Is there some room from O Lucky Man hiding in North Carolina? Is there an island of Dr. Moreau off New York? Maybe they mean Plum Island?

Well, good to see the value of life expressed. I think about the lives of those people who died in the aftermath of Katrina, the lives of the people of Fallujah or in Gitmo or Abu Ghraib or in our huge domestic prison system which still carries out barbaric if sterile executions, or the lives of people around the world who get HIV for lack of real educational programs beyond “just abstain” and die from it for lack of support for generic drugs. It’s easy to see the values of “life” in cutting anti-poverty programs, in cutting education, in cutting healthcare. Or maybe the value of all our lives is measured in terms of profits and cannon fodder. I felt sorry for that military family standing there. I felt sorry for that soldier’s wife and his parents. What did he die for? Invasion and occupation wasn’t the only option. I’ve now heard rumours of dropping nukes on Iran. Evidently civilian killings are planned to represent our support of their liberty too.

I liked the “switch grass” – it added spice, although I’m not sure where the marshlands could be retrieved for growing it. Can you see the slogan? “Grow Grass for Bush.” Actually, I think the clean reliable and safe energy he’s planning on is primarily nuclear energy. Has that really registered? Do we really want to give terrorists even more underdefended targets here?

I’m not sure I can really believe that an administration so closely tied to oil and gas (and who always supports industry over consumers) will be the ones who will move us out of a petroleum-based economy. He said that the US would replace 75% of our Middle East oil imports by 2025, but only 20% of our imports come from the region anyway, and he gives it about 20 years to happen. The White House has been against efforts to tighten fuel economy standards, and the tax system actually gives SUV drivers an incentive. He pledged support for alternative fuel technologies in previous State of the Union addresses, too, just like every other President I ever remember. Let’s see how it pans out.

Line item veto? Maybe it was a joke? He did grin. Anyway, that power was granted to Clinton but then overturned by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

On the economy, let’s remember that he inherited a $281 billion budget surplus that is now a $400 billion deficit. The national debt is up 44% (trillions and trillions of dollars, folks), but he wants to keep those tax cuts to the rich. The gap in America between the rich and the poor grows.

We’ve created “more jobs than Japan and Europe combined”… and they are all at Halliburton. Seriously, I don’t know if the claim about job creation is true or not, but it is my understanding that in both Japan and most of Europe, there is healthcare whether or not you are employed, a free college education, weeks and weeks of vacation, and generous pension plans. Part-time jobs at Walmart don’t really compare. Let’s also compare the worker populations. I wonder how many new workers entered the market in that time? No mention of how many jobs India or China have created in the same amount of time…. Anyway, there was a reason he didn’t cite the figures from the beginning of his presidency – it would have cut his total by more than half. 2 million jobs over a five-year period isn’t really much to brag about, especially when you look at the jobs.

Healthcare. Again, Bush would rather cut Medicare than allow, for example, negotiated drug prices. A closed-door session just gave away another $22 billion benefit to insurance companies, and some $140 million was spent by drug and insurance companies to lobby Republicans on the Medicare drug benefit alone. How about looking at some of the systemic issues?

Yes, we need to have a debate on healthcare, one that bases decisions on the common good of all Americans – is he really going to have that debate? I hope so. We need everyone’s ideas on this one. He didn’t really make any move toward fixing the current mess that privatizing the drug benefit (or is it “penalty”?) has caused. There seems to be no move (while he’s in the mood to cut needed programs all over, like Pell Grants and Medicare), to optimize or reform the healthcare system or to watchdog the health/drug/insurance industries. Any administrative assistant at any healthcare facility in the country can tell you where the fat is, where the corruption is. How about this as one small measure – insurance companies have to pay bills within 30 days, like the rest of us. Don’t wait around to hear such measures suggested by the Bush administration.

The Patriot Act? How about if we lose some of these provisions, such as the criminalization of protesters (carrying punishments of up to ten years in prison)? Or perhaps the Congress should consider cutting back on the wholesale authority to wiretap your phone, monitor your e-mail and demand your medical, financial and student records from banks, vendors, doctors‚ offices, and libraries – those required to turn over your records are prevented from ever telling you, even if the records turn up no wrongdoing.

The Bush administration has worked hard – to subvert America’s laws regarding open government while it infringes on your constitutional rights. This administration has done everything in its power to block and stall and hide from investigations into 9/11, the way we entered into the Iraq war, the Katrina aftermath, and the outing of Plame. It is a very very secretive administration. It has promoted cronyism at such levels as to have become actual security threats to our nation, and blocked meaningful debate by simply shutting down the conversation.

Just the little detail that adds insult: Cindy Sheehan was arrested and taken away in handcuffs for the crime of wearing a teeshirt that said “2245 How Many More?”. She was an invited guest. She wasn’t the only one in trouble either. Beverly Young (wife of Rep. C.W. Bill Young of Florida, chairman of the House Defense Appropriations subcommittee) was removed from the gallery for another teeshirt considered to be a “protest.” It read, “Support the Troops — Defending Our Freedom.”

So while I feel the President has, with practice, improved on his speech delivery skills, we’re still just being had.

Of course, I wasn’t that impressed with the Democrat’s response either, which had a few good points but was dumbed-down wayyyy too much.

I did like the brief comments I saw from Barack Obama. Maybe he should run in 2008. I’d vote for him over anyone else at this point.

So here’s his statement, which makes me a lot more hopeful than any words from this President’s speech:

Tonight, the American people know our union should be stronger. They know we can defeat terror and keep our shores safe. And they know that we can be competitive in a 21st century economy where every hardworking family prospers, not just some.

But the American people are wondering if this Administration can lead us there. Because after five years of the same timid solutions to great national challenges, Americans are more anxious about their future and more uncertain about the direction of the country we love.

They’ve seen their wages go down as their medical, gas, and tuition bills go up. They’ve seen jobs go overseas and wonder if our children will be prepared to compete in a global economy. And they’ve seen scandal and corruption take hold of a Washington that helps high-priced lobbyists at the expense of hardworking families.

Americans everywhere want a leader who speaks to their hopes for a better future and then acts on them.

But tonight, the President barely mentioned his health care plan for people who can already afford health care, ignoring bold, bipartisan proposals that can guarantee affordable and available health care for every American.

He identified America’s addiction to oil, but ignored his Administration’s addiction to oil-industry giveaways that won’t free us from our dependence on fossil fuels.

And after forty-six minutes of speaking, the President used less than sixty words to tell us how he’d clean up Washington and restore the American people’s faith in a government that works for them, not just big donors.

We can have this kind of government in America, face the future with hope, and move our country in the direction of progress. But we need strong leadership to get there – leadership that isn’t afraid to think big, try new ideas, and reach out to Americans of all political stripes. This is how we will restore the American people’s faith in our union and truly make it stronger.

2 thoughts on “My reaction to the State of the Union Address

  1. Oh, I avoided the SOTU, mostly because I was spending time with my son, and nothing more important. But in reading over past SOTU’s and other statements by Mr. Bush, especially those regarding war in Iraq and against terror, and reading the transcript of yesterday’s SOTU – I find the same theme and the same deep belief. It is one based on American exceptionalism and the American monomyth: the U.S. is God’s agent in history and our task is to act and further that agenda. Reagan had articulated that early on, and most Presidents tend to buy into that exceptionalism – some, like Mr. Bush claim that we have been asked once again to respond to need, others believe it is more a matter of who we are that such a responsibility falls upon us. In my estimation this belief is so ingrained in American political psyche that it should be considered part of the national symbolic (as per L. Berlant). And it used to be called Manifest Destiny.

    Yesterday’s SOTU did not say anything new. Bush and his cabal cannot embark on visionary projects that cost anything, they already have enough with the wars they are waging, and planning (Iran), the domestic angles are not new and by virtue of that cause little concern, and what’s more , little ripple effect in terms of the news cycle… unfortunately Kaine’s response was as tepid — but no surprise there either, the Democratic Party does not want to agitate the water, they wait for it to be agitated before they make bold claims. In short, the SOTU was a fine statement to dull any sharp edges out there for the admin – it reveals a lack of substance, a lack of desire about, and perhaps skill at, governance, and sought quietly, implicitly, to reaffirm the myth of a unitary presidency — after all, we just have to trust the Prez.

    Thanks for the post Virus! : )

  2. I didn’t watch it either. Thanks, Heidi, for your report on a speech I couldn’t bring myself to watch.

    Amnesty International USA issued a response to the speech, which I’ve posted in the Feb. 1st entry of my blog (“More on Torture in the American Empire”).

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