Thursday, February 02, 2006
Three Starboard SOTU Post-Mortems
[Bush]appeared to be moving toward bigger government.
The consensus on the Right was that President Bush's fifth State of the Union Address was his worst. Republican members of Congress agreed privately that he was most effective at the beginning with his familiar message of why U.S. forces cannot abandon Iraq. The problem for these lawmakers was the rest of the 51-minute presentation, which was filled with unpleasant surprises.
With polls showing the president's approval rating persistently anemic (as low as 39 percent), the speech aimed at a kinder, gentler Bush. But beyond atmospherics, the policy initiatives staked out new directions in the sixth year of his presidency that raised questions. Is this the real George W. Bush? Is he really his true father's son and not Ronald Reagan's?
2) Peggy Noonan:
The president's State of the Union Address will be little noted and not long remembered. There was a sense that he was talking at, not to, the country. He asserted more than he persuaded, and he chose to redeclare his beliefs rather than argue for them in any depth. If you believe, as he does, that the No. 1 priority for the American government at this point in history is to lead an international movement for political democracy, and if you believe, as he truly seems to, that political democracy is in and of itself a certain bringer of world-wide peace, than this speech was for you. If not, not. It went through a reported 30 drafts, was touched by many hands, and seemed it. Not precisely a pudding without a theme, but a thin porridge.
(She follows with a rather spirited analysis of the seeming dissolution of the Democratic Party).
3) George Will (after praising the expanded use of Health Savings Accounts):
The president's headline-grabbing assertion that America is "addicted" to oil is wonderfully useless. If it means only -- and what else can it mean? -- that in the near term we will urgently need a lot of oil, it is banal. The amusingly discordant word "addicted" couched censoriousness -- the president as national scold; our use of oil as somehow irresponsible -- in the vocabulary of addiction, which is the therapeutic language of Oprah Nation.
Not to worry. The president says that by 2025 America will "replace" -- a certain ambiguity there -- "more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East." Replace with what? Other oil? Never mind. Such recurring goals, located safely over the horizon, resemble Soviet agricultural quotas, except that no one will be shot when they are not met.