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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

State of the Union? What State is That?

Tonight the President gave his annual State of the Union speech. Unlike his previous speeches, this one was noticeably tamer in its tone and the President did not overreach as he did last year with Social Security. President Bush sought to reassure the public on Iraq and definitely remind Americans of the neverending fear of terrorism (they will never let that one escape). In fact, this time he did something he had not done before, he mentioned Osama Bin Laden's name twice. President Bush stuck to his strong points, national security and the War on Terror. He vigorously defended the NSA wiretapping controversy, something widely expected. That issue will be reviewed by Congress beginning on Monday, so the President may very well be in hot water. The White House stuck to its guns, the few they have left anyway. The speech in itself was nothing remarkable, and was mostly aimed at his base. The most noticeable reaction was when he mentioned the victory over naming Supreme Court Justices Roberts and Alito, and having them successfully confirmed. When it came to addressing entitlements, this time around he suggested forming a bipartisan Commission to examine the issue. Previous Presidents have attempted this proposal and it has generally been viewed as a weak approach to fixing problematic third rail issues such as Social Security and Medicare. President Bush was badly humiliated last year when he attempted to reform Social Security. He was wise in not going to far this time around. He mentioned getting rid of our addiction to foreign oil, but he has done that everytime, yet nothing is really being done about it. Hopefully this time he means it. In general, the speech was upbeat, not as optimistic as his previous ones though. I think the White House has learned that the overreaching optimism they have presented in the past is continually being shot down by the facts on the ground, be it Iraq, jobs, healthcare, gas, Katrina, etc. The public has gotten tired and turned against the President, if you believe the polls. The White House realizes now that they will lose more support if they do not face the facts and keep presenting a rosy picture. That is good. At least they will level with us (a little bit more anyway). In essence, semi-quoting a CNN analyst, President Bush has learned, or been forced to play small-ball and take it one step at a time. The speech as I said was aimed at his Republican base. It will do little to help in the polls. It can only help, but the discontent is such with the public, that it will take a lot more than a toned down and cautiously optimistic speech to change the minds of an angry public. But it could be a start.

P.S. It should be no surprise that the House Chamber was bitterly divided. Republicans cheering the President's policies, while the Democrats sat on their hands. All that made very visible and embarrassing by the fact that the House is divided right down the middle: Democrats to the left, Republicans to the right. The only time Democrats stood up to cheer were when the issue of security for our troops and nation were brought up, and more noticeably when they jeered as the President spoke about his failed Social Security reform plan (this time Republicans were the ones sitting down). How sad. Both parties are an embarrassment to the honor and integrity of this country.

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