Wednesday, February 02, 2005

OK, peer pressure, you win

Almost every political blogger in the United States is hopping off the Brooklyn Bridge, so I may as well join them. Here, in no particular order, are some preliminary observations about the State of the Union address and the Democratic response.

Harry Reid stole my muse: I was all set for my headline on this post to make a witty reference to Bill Murray's comedic classic Groundhog Day -- you know, since it's Groundhog Day, and we've heard President Bush say a lot of the same things time and again. ("The beat goes on" would have been a little too obvious, so I was leaning toward "Drums keep poundin' a rhythm to the brain.") But then the Senate minority leader from Nevada had to steal my thunder with his own sly movie reference in the Democratic response. Thanks for nothing, Harry.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend: Bush said he has "the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world" and rebuked the Iranian and Syrian governments for oppressing their people. The leaders of Iran and Syria have done reprehensible things, but if Bush's goal is to end all tyranny in the world, why did he praise the repressive regimes in Egypt and Saudi Arabia?

'They took our jobs!': Props to Bush for standing up to internal party pressure and calling for a guest worker program for illegal immigrants. As I've said before, the American economy's dirty little secret is that barring a depression, it needs immigrants willing to do less-desirable jobs to keep things going. Anti-
immigration sentiment has always played well among a lot of voters, so I commend Bush for doing the right thing here.

Doublethink at work: In the same speech where he observed that "a society is measured by how it treats the weak and vulnerable" and said "we must never turn away from any citizen who feels isolated from the opportunities of America," Bush threw his support behind a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. If your mind can reconcile that contradiction, you're a more talented thinker than I.

Private party: Bush introduced his Social Security privatization plan tonight, and its details are no big surprise. Most notable was when Democrats briefly shouted Bush down when he claimed Social Security will go bankrupt in 2042. That, of course, isn't quite true. As I said last month, Bush still needs to explain how the government will ensure that diverted payroll taxes actually go into safe retirement investments. I suspect it would involve another layer of bureaucracy.

Some folks just aren't meant for TV: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is one of them. Yeah, we need to secure loose nuclear material and give more money to first responders, but it hurt my ears to hear her stumbling over those words in a speech clearly read straight off the teleprompter. Advice to the Dems: Let Reid give the whole rebuttal next year. He showed a grandfatherly quality tonight that could endear him to the public.

The enduring image: People soon will forget what Bush said tonight, but the picture of the Iraqi woman hugging the mother of a Marine killed in battle will live on in popular lore. Even if you're not really into symbolism, it was still a powerful moment.

Um, see, asbestos causes cancer: Bush, while pushing for caps on damages in medical malpractice lawsuits and scapegoating lawyers for all the world's ills, said the country's "economy is held back by irresponsible class actions and frivolous asbestos claims." So, Mr. President, care to tell me whose asbestos-induced lung cancer was just a waste of the court's time?

Long speeches can be entertaining: Sure, it was funny when the camera caught U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., nodding off at the very beginning of Bush's address. But words cannot describe how amusing -- and creepy -- it was to watch Bush plant a full-on kiss on U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., after the speech. I guess that's one way to reach out across the aisle.


Blogger Lee P said...

On Egypt and Saudi Arabia...I'm not sure you'd characterize what the President said as "praise:"

"The government of Saudi Arabia can demonstrate its leadership in the region by expanding the role of its people in determining their future. And the great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East."

10:16 AM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

Bush didn't come right out and say "attaboy" to those two governments, but he spoke of them in a pretty positive light. I'd classify a reference to Saudi Arabia as a "[leader] in the region" as praise. Earlier in the speech, he also commended the Saudis for capturing and detaining terrorists. And if I were an Egyptian leader, I'd consider myself praised if the U.S. president called my country "great and proud" and said it can "show the way toward democracy in the Middle East."

My point wasn't that Egypt and Saudi Arabia should be classified with Iran and Syria. It's that as a practical matter, the U.S. government often looks the other way on allies' human-rights abuses and oppression for the sake of what is seen as an eventual greater good. Stamping out tyranny all over the world is a noble ideal, but the rhetoric shouldn't obscure the reality that we've forged some uneasy alliances along the way.

11:30 AM  
Blogger Lee P said...

I'm just saying that even a mild public rebuke of nations that are considered allies is quite unusual, and the President should be commended for that.

7:08 PM  
Blogger Alabamian said...

I'll withhold a full-blown commendation until there's a little more backhand in the backhanded compliment.

1:00 AM  

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