State of the Union Preview

So, it’s a couple of hours before the President delivers his sixth State of the Union Address, and the White House Communications Office has released some excerpts from the speech. Most notable excerpt: an admission that this country is addicted to oil. I’ve long believed that the only way we, as a country, will be able to have reformatory policies in energy and health care is if a Republican President crossed up his base, and created a “Nixon goes to China” moment.

I don’t believe, for a moment, that this President is serious about either policy area. But by opening the door and making the admission, the President is forcing us as a country to cross an important psychological and political threshold; once that threshold is crossed, it will be well-nigh impossible to go back.

As a personal note, I’ll be watching the address at the Gill Foundation Building on Wahsatch and Vermijo, starting at about 6:30 PM. There will be plenty of food and libations provided, so if you’re in Colorado Springs, join me.

The preview is after the jump.

The thing to remember about this speech is that the President will wax eloquent using time-worn (okay, time-tested) clichés about how great we are. This is the first big speech that his new speechwriter, Bill McGurn, has crafted. McGurn, who used to ply the writing arts on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal, is probably a craftmanlike writer at best. Unlike the President’s first speechwriter, Michael Gerson, you’re probably not going to hear soaring prose or evangelical allusions.

The President’s words are in italics, mine are in regular. Let’s get started.

“In this decisive year, you and I will make choices that determine both the future and the character of our country. We will choose to act confidently in pursuing the enemies of freedom – or retreat from our duties in the hope of an easier life. We will choose to build our prosperity by leading the world economy – or shut ourselves off from trade and opportunity. In a complex and challenging time, the road of isolationism and protectionism may seem broad and inviting – yet it ends in danger and decline. The only way to protect our people … the only way to secure the peace … the only way to control our destiny is by our leadership – so the United States of America will continue to lead.”

Ehh…standard boilerplate. I have a speech that has as its refrain, “By their deeds, ye shall know them”. We’ve had Bush as President for six years now. Not once in those six years has he asked anyone to sacrifice for the greater good of America, save for my fellow vets. So–standard boilerplate.
“Abroad, our Nation is committed to an historic, long-term goal – we seek the end of tyranny in our world… the future security of America depends on it.”
Ironically, this is–to my way of thinking, anyway–a liberal goal. Unfortunately, the President has pursued extremely illiberal ways of achieving this. While I agree with him in spirit, I cannot condone the actions taken in pursuit of this goal–actions which include the wholesale violation of privacy of every American, the establishment of a new gulag archipelago of secret prisons, and the illogical, counterproductive invasion of a country which posed essentially little or no threat to us.
“In a time of testing, we cannot find security by abandoning our commitments and retreating within our borders. If we were to leave these vicious attackers alone, they would not leave us alone. They would simply move the battlefield to our own shores.”
This the rehashing of that tired trope: we’re fighting them there so we don’t fight them here. Really? You could have fooled me on July 7 of last year, when Britain sustained it’s first Muslim terror attack; or March 31 of 2004, when Spain sustained a massive attack of its own.

Look, the sooner we realize that our enemy in the War on Terror is, fundamentally, four guys in Omaha putting a bus bomb together, the sooner we can bring it to an end. Unfortunately for us, it won’t happen anytime soon, since his national security team doesn’t have a clue, either.

“…Ultimately, the only way to defeat the terrorists is to defeat their dark vision of hatred and fear by offering the hopeful alternative of political freedom and peaceful change.”
I agree. But the problem is that the last couple of countries who’ve gone to the ballot box–Iraq and Palestine–have picked extremist, maximalist parties who are interested in everything but peaceful change and political freedom. And the President has either been willfully blind to this (in the case of Iraq), or obstinately unwilling to accept the facts on the ground (in the case of both Palestine and Iraq).
“To overcome dangers in our world, we must also take the offensive by encouraging economic progress, fighting disease, and spreading hope in hopeless lands.”

Right. More meaningless boilerplate. Move on.

“Here at home, America also has a great opportunity: We will build the prosperity of our country by strengthening our economic leadership in the world.”
Okay–how? It can’t be through the spectacularly incompetent management of our economy–management so inept that it has resulted in a historically huge deficit, and led countries across the world to consider dropping the dollar in favor of the euro.

Leadership, indeed.

“The American economy is pre-eminent – but we cannot afford to be complacent. In a dynamic world economy, we are seeing new competitors like China and India.”
No thanks to our bumbling.

“We must continue to lead the world in human talent and creativity. Our greatest advantage in the world has always been our educated, hard-working, ambitious people – and we are going to keep that edge.”
Not if Roy Moore and the Discovery Institute have anything to do with it. Have we forgotten so soon that Alabama lost manufacturing jobs to Canada–Canada!–because Alabamians were functionally illiterate? And we’re going to fix this by teaching kids that, hey, guess what, Buford–The Flintstones were an accurate depiction of man’s early days!


“America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world… The best way to break this addiction is through technology.”
This is just about the only part of the speech that I find genuinely intriguing. What will he propose? I don’t expect much, if anything, in the way of serious policy, but if, say, Al Gore were elected President in ’08, can you imagine what he could do with this opening?

“Our government has a responsibility to help provide health care for the poor and the elderly, and we are meeting that responsibility. For all Americans, we must confront the rising cost of care … strengthen the doctor-patient relationship … and help people afford the insurance coverage they need.”

This will likely be the point at which he introduces health savings accounts (HSAs). HSAs–like the Medicare reform, only much, much less enjoyable. See, for example, Ezra Klein or Kate Steadman for more good wonkiness on this.
“…our greatness is not measured in power or luxuries, but by who we are and how we treat one another. So we strive to be a compassionate, decent, hopeful society.”
Right. Okay. And we do this the way Dickensian London did it–through private charity and by the wholesale elimination of the social welfare safety net.

Okay, so there it is–your 2006 State of the Union Preview.


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