Thursday, February 16, 2006

Vice Presidential Hunting Accident

For the record, I invented this joke and am taking full credit for it.

"My opinion of the Vice President has changed."

"Oh, yes? How?"

"I used to think he was a liar. Now I can see he's a straight shooter."

This was literally the first thing to pop into this Editor's mind when he learned that the Vice President had accidentally shot a 78-year-old companion in the chest and head while quail hunting. We all have our faults.
The victim, who had a mild heart attack several days ago because of a bullet in his chest, is recovering in a Texas hospital.
The Vice President was criticized for not having his office make the information public until a full day after the incident took place. Some of this anger seems to be misguided, as the Vice President did have a friend of his make a public statement and did not actively attempt to conceal the accident.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

2006 State of the Union Address

President Bush delivered his sixth State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress this Tuesday, giving a largely general speech at a time when the country remains bitterly divided. The Address was marked, for the first time in this President’s history, by a lack of confrontational, controversial, or wide-ranging proposals. President Bush acknowledged his conservative base, issued the same standard calls for morality in the fields of science and public policy, and then went on to say essentially nothing for about an hour.
The President opened his speech by noting the loss of Coretta Scott King, wife of civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., who died the morning before the State of the Union was given. He called briefly for the spread of democracy in the Middle East and remarked that American soldiers were doing good in the world, whereupon he directed the attention of the packed House to the parents and sibling of a recently fallen U.S. serviceman who had been stationed in Iraq.
Many of his statements during the speech were so soft, so neutral and so watered-down, that virtually anyone would have agreed with what he was saying. However, criticism of Democratic policies, though veiled and indirect, was there. Lamenting the growing discontent over the Iraq war, the President declared that, “The decision to withdraw troops will be made by generals on the ground, not by politicians in Washington, D.C.”
This exclamation drew thunderous self-righteous applause and a standing ovation from the Republican half of the floor, whereas the Democratic side of the Chamber remained still as a statue, coldly looking on as the President smirked from the lectern at the front of the room. Like so many insults against the Democrats on Tuesday, this one was implied; the “politicians in Washington, D.C.” were of course the Left, who, it was to be understood, are removed from what “real” Americans think and whose criticism against the war is as “irresponsible” as it is elitist.
This statement was, however, misleading; very few Democrats have called for the immediate withdrawal of troops, and most are united around the fact that the American military must stay in Iraq until that country can govern itself. The opposition being expressed by the majority of the Left is not to American troop presence in Iraq, but rather the intelligence failures (or manipulation) that led to that presence in the first place. The idea that Democrats wish to pull the Army out of Iraq is a Republican myth propagated by conservative officials, whose constant reiteration that “immediate withdrawal is not the answer” leads many to believe that there is actually a faction seriously proposing that U.S. forces vacate the country, when in fact there is no such political movement within the mainstream Democratic Party.
The misrepresentation of Democratic intentions was not the only half-truth uttered in the State of the Union. The disaster in New Orleans was virtually skipped over, meriting only a few sentences in the entire speech. Even when acknowledging that something had gone wrong in Louisiana, President Bush merely addressed it in terms of the American people being “concerned.”
He also urged, for his fifth State of the Union in a row, that Congress invest more money in alternative energy sources like hydrogen to power cars, and said Americans must put a stop to this country’s “addiction to oil.” This marked perhaps one of the most ironic and telling portions of the speech, as it illustrated not only this nation’s perilous energy situation but also the consistent disconnect between what the White House says and reality.
For, despite having asked for five years in a row that Congress take steps to ease America’s dependence on foreign oil, the President continues to sponsor enormous tax cuts for the nation’s largest oil companies, granting them government subsidies at a time when they are already reaping in record profits. Indeed, the President’s initiatives have actually contributed to foreign oil dependence, which seems to lead one to the conclusion that President Bush is doing almost the exact opposite of what he says he will do. While earnestly portraying himself as an environmentalist who cares about the preservation of our nation’s natural beauty, he is simultaneously attacking environmental restrictions and attempting to have endangered species reclassified so that wealthy developers can build in their habitats. The difference between what George W. Bush says and what George W. Bush does has never been starker than it was last night. He is a man who espouses middle class values but feeds upper class corruption, a man who claims to represent the working people but whose tax cuts (for the wealthy) have hurt the poor before all others. A candidate who promised to return honor to the presidency, he has desecrated it by leading our country into war under false pretenses, repeatedly violating our Constitution, and using the name of our Lord to forward his despicable agenda.
All in all, the impression that one got of the State of the Union Address was that it was muffled. President Bush was like a rambunctious dog, that, having been boisterously wild in days before, has been trained through repeated lashings with a whip to be still. The President seemed as if he wanted to say more, but could, for fear of that political whip. All of President Bush’s other State of the Union speeches contained broad reform initiatives, especially last year’s, which acted as the starting point for his failed attempt to privatize Social Security. When the President noted that, “Congress failed to act on my Social Security initiatives,” the Democratic side of the floor burst into a cacophony of clapping and cheering. The President, visibly angered, wagged his finger at the Democratic legislators before continuing with the Address. It could not possibly have been more apparent that President Bush’s “political capital” has long since dissipated. He understands (or at least his speechwriters do) that he does not have the same kind of overwhelming support, even within his own party, that he once commanded. The 2006 State of the Union Address reflected a President whose many mistakes have made him a political pariah, an object of scorn for the majority of the American people, and, increasingly, a leader who simply cannot get things done. President Bush has two more State of the Union Addresses to deliver before he leaves office in 2009, but it seems that he may already beginning to walk down Lame Duck Lane.