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.


Blogger RightDemocrat said...

Our Republican controlled U.S. House of Representatives has passed a budget bill by a 216 to 214 margin that will cut $40 million from the budget most through reducing spending on critical programs like Medicaid, student loans and child support enforcement. Perhaps these cuts could be justified in the interest of deficit reduction if similar cuts were being made across the board, but this is not the reality. In fact, Republicans in Congress want tax cuts that far exceed the total spending cuts to programs which include areas like renewable energy research. The reckless Republican fiscal policies are clearly summarized in this February 3 report from Reuters.

"House Speaker Dennis Hastert, also speaking to journalists, emphasized trying to balance the U.S. budget, which the Congressional Budget Office says will hit a $337 billion deficit this year. 'What we want to do is hold the line on spending,' said Hastert, an Illinois Republican. He added that he wanted to restore "a surplus in the budget."

"Republicans have sought to advance both objectives in Congress this week. Democrats argued that the goals were in direct conflict, with the proposed renewal of tax cuts more than wiping out savings in federal spending. The Senate on Thursday approved $70 billion in tax cuts, part of the Republican effort to maintain President Bush's lower tax rates. Differences will have to be negotiated with the House, which has passed a $56 billion tax-cut bill. The House narrowly approved earlier in the week a controversial bill to cut domestic spending by $39 billion."

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorialized in December that "With all the pork, boondoggles and pet projects gouged out of the federal treasury each year, it's dumbfounding to see Congress take one-third of its budget cuts out of the hides of college students and their families." Bush is cutting student loan programs while stressing the need in the Status of the Union address for "more engineers and scientists that are able to compete with other students around the world."

George W. Bush called for a greater emphasis on renewal energy resources in his State of the Union speech, however, the New York Times reported on Thursday that Republican budget cuts will reduce spending on energy research.

"The Energy Department will begin laying off researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the next week or two because of cuts to its budget."

"A veteran researcher said the staff had been told that the cuts would be concentrated among researchers in wind and biomass, which includes ethanol. Those are two of the technologies that Mr. Bush cited on Tuesday night as holding the promise to replace part of the nation's oil imports."

The cuts in child support enforcement agencies are especially short-sighted as the activities of these programs pay for themselves. Child support enforcement plays a important role by reducing welfare dependency, recovering the cost of public assistance programs and reducing the need for Medicaid expenditures through obtaining private health insurance for children. Child support enforcement agencies help to make sure that deadbeat parents pay their share of the cost of raising children rather than the taxpayers.

Let's hope that the voters will end this insanity by defeating members of Congress who vote to increase the deficit through massive tax cuts while cutting critical programs for those without powerful lobbyists.

9:41 AM  
Blogger RightDemocrat said...

The following column written by R. Justin Day appeared in the Fort Report (Florida's most powerful news service) Day is Executive Director of Florida Mainstream Democrats I think that this up and coming political organizer and strategist offers some excellent advice for Democrats on how we can become a majority party once again.

If Democrats ever want to regain the glory days of what seems like centuries ago, we must be competitive in the rural areas of the South. If we continue to concede the South, then we will continue as a minority party longer than any of us would like. Democrats must overcome the desire to only reach out to the Northeast and West-Coast base, and not be afraid to stand up against interest groups in our own party. It is time for the Democratic establishment to open up and invite elected Democrats from red states, who may disagree with national Democrats on issues such as gay rights, abortion, and gun control, to sit with labor leaders, trial lawyers, and civil rights groups and us how to win there.

Democrats should not adopt the agenda of social conservatives, but we need to do a better job of opening up and accepting social conservatives into our own party. Most Americans are not religious right-wingers, but most Americans are religious. Democrats need to do a better job of listening and speaking to them in their terms. As Congressman Artur Davis once said "The party of tolerance cannot make religion the one value it cannot tolerate."

We need to be strong on national security by developing our own strategy against the war on terrorism, and prevent the Republicans from portraying us as the antiwar party.

As Democrats we need a plan to recruit Democratic business leaders and speak on issues such as: lowering health care cost, simplifying the tax code, and increasing tax breaks for small businesses. Democrats must begin pushing for tax reform. We must continue to oppose the Republican tax breaks for the wealthiest of Americans, while calling for increases in tax breaks for middle-class families. Democrats must also find a way to make the tax code in America less complex.

We need to lead, in the family values debate. We need to discuss ideas on how to give parents more tools to protect their children and enable parents to spend more time with their families.

Finally, we must push for budget reform. It's time for Democrats to fight for budget reforms, including reinstating budget controls and paying down the national deficit. These are the issues that Democrats should address in 2006.

By reaching out to small business owners, strengthening our stance on national security, leading the family values debate, and pushing for budget reforms, Democrats will win over independents and conservative Democrats, we have lost in the past. The DLC has said, "The test for Democrats is to convince the voters that they will defend their country, share their values, and champion their economic interests." Clearly, if we continue to lose two out of three we will never win again.

8:49 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home