DUSTY RHOADES: Unstately: Some Random Thoughts on the President's Message
The State of the Union address has gotten to be like the Oscars for me: I tell myself not to watch it. It'll just make me nuts, plus it'll keep me up too late.
But when the time rolls around, there I am, eyes glued to the screen, muttering darkly at each new atrocity that unfolds before me. This time, however, I had my trusty laptop open in front of me. That way, instead of cursing and throwing things at the screen, I could take out my aggression in a healthier and more productive way.
Anyway, my thoughts on the State of the Union address, logged as it happened:
-- "Ladies and gentlemen, the president of the United States!" The president comes in, everyone stands and applauds until he's introduced again by the speaker, at which point everyone stands and applauds again, as if they'd totally forgotten who he was.
-- Dubbya begins by offering a spirit of bipartisanship to the people his party has been demonizing as traitors for the past six years. He claims he's proud to introduce a female speaker after saying that "terrorists win and America loses" if she and her party won. This proves Speaker Nancy Pelosi is a better person than I am. If anyone else had tried that hypocritical sucking-up to me after six years of calling me a terrorist sympathizer, I'd have dumped my water pitcher on his head.
-- President Bush announces that balancing the federal budget is suddenly a priority, after not submitting a balanced budget or vetoing a spending bill for the past six years.
-- Bush on "earmarks" in the budget: "You did not vote them into law. I did not sign them into law. Yet they are treated as if they have the force of law. The time has come to end this practice." Apparently, Dubbya has just discovered earmarks now that the Democrats are in control of Congress. How convenient. But I'll agree with him on this. Things that weren't voted for but that have the force of law are bad. Let's get rid of them. And while you're at it, why don't you end the signing statements where you say you don't have to obey any congressional enactment you don't agree with? No one voted them into law either.
-- "For all other Americans, private health insurance is the best way to meet their needs." Spoken like a man who hasn't had to deal with an insurance company in his entire privileged life. Bush and most of the people in the room have great health insurance through the guvmint. Sorry, though. The rabble can't have it.
-- "For too long, our nation has been dependent on foreign oil." Which is a real problem now that we've ticked off every oil-producing country in the world. Left out of the speech: "I know I've mentioned energy independence a lot before, but this time, I'm talking about reducing consumption by actual numbers, so you can believe me this time. Really. We just have to figure out a way to do it when Mr. Halliburton sitting behind me isn't looking." Well, at least mentioning ethanol made the Iowa delegation happy.
-- Bush refers to "the serious challenge of global climate change." A challenge which he's been denying even existed.
-- "We stopped an al Qaeda plot to fly a hijacked airplane into the tallest building on the West Coast. We broke up a Southeast Asian terrorist cell grooming operatives for attacks inside the United States. We uncovered an al Qaeda cell developing anthrax to be used in attacks against America. And just last August, British authorities uncovered a plot to blow up passenger planes bound for America over the Atlantic Ocean." None of these terrorists, we might add, came from Iraq. Looks like we're fighting them over there AND over here. So much for that talking point.
-- On sectarian violence in Iraq: "This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in." We're in it, Mr. President, because we didn't plan for it. Or, more accurately, you didn't plan for it.
-- "Iraq's leaders know that our commitment is not open-ended." Like it was before the election.
-- "And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure." But that's what we got, thanks to the total chuckleheadedness of you, your vice president, and your secretary of defense, who thought we'd walk in, kick Saddam out, then the Sunnis, the Shiites, and the Kurds would all join hands and sing "God Bless America" followed by "Kum Bah Yah," after which we'd just pack up and go home to rest up for the invasion of Iran.
On the whole, though, it was a more conciliatory and reasonable speech than we've come to expect from The Decider. But this new reasonable Bush never fails to remind me of a line voiced by the character of The Misfit in Flannery O'Connor's short story, "A Good Man Is Hard to Find": "She would of been a good woman if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life."
Bush might have been a better president if he'd been facing a Congress who'd hold him accountable every day of his life.
Dusty Rhoades lives, writes and practices law in Carthage.
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