State of the Union
What Bush Said and Did Not Say
On January 28, Bush gave a "State of the Union" speech. Here is The Progress Report's reaction.
by Hanno T. BeckA "state of the union" speech is delivered once a year. It should touch on the biggest topics, issues and events of the previous year. We can learn a few things from what Bush said, and even more from what he failed to say.
In my opinion there were eight areas that were necessary to speak about for a minimal "state of the union" speech. Let us see how Bush performed:
(1) Afghanistan. The U.S. war against that country killed thousands of people, more than were killed in the September 11 attacks. What is the result? Bush failed to say. The fact is that there is no stable government in Afghanistan, violence is rampant, women are still treated unfairly, children are starving, refugees remain unsettled, and the growing of opium continues.
That is not a very good result for a country that we took over last year. And I don't expect Bush to dwell on that failure. But he had an obligation to at least talk about it.
(2) Osama bin Laden. Remember that guy? He was the whole reason that the U.S. went to war against Afghanistan. And Bush failed to mention him even once. The man who was the super-villain a year ago is now apparently considered unimportant. Why is that? How is it that the U.S. no longer cares about the sponsor of the September 11 attacks? The American people deserve frank answers.
(3) Oil and energy policy. I was pleased to note that Bush actually talked about making America free from reliance on foreign energy sources. However, it was only talk.
The only actual policy that he named to achieve this goal was to call for $1.2 billion in corporate welfare handouts to automobile manufacturers. The idea is that the carmakers need help in researching how to make hydrogen-powered vehicles. But the fact is that carmakers are already working on this, and have been for years. And frankly, $1.2 billion is not very much in a "state of the union" speech -- Bush mentioned $400 billion for health care, $15 billion for anti-AIDS efforts.
So why would a Republican abandon the Republican notion of independent business and instead get government into the act of researching for hydrogen-powered vehicles? To repay campaign contributions from those automakers, of course. Sorry for being cynical, but no one could possibly think that a corporate welfare handout like that is really going to do anything at all toward making us free from dependence on foreign oil.
(4) Iraq. Well, the world was hoping to hear some new evidence against Iraq so that Bush's plan for war would seem more understandable and less insane. Unfortunately, no "smoking gun" was revealed. Bush just made vague allegations. Lots of them. Like he has been doing for months, he continued to say bad things about Iraq and to make unsupported claims.
Let me ask the readers of The Progress Report -- do you believe that Iraq is more capable of attacking the USA than, say, five years ago? When did Iraq ever attack the USA? (Hint: Iraq became independent in 1932.)
(5) Central and South America. These regions were not mentioned at all by Bush. Nor was Canada mentioned. Nor was Mexico mentioned. I'm not saying that he has to list every nation under the sun, but you'd think he could talk at least a little about the dire situation in Venezuela after the failed coup -- oops, that would make his administration look bad. Well, he could talk about the government-sponsored killings in Colombia -- oops, that makes Bush look bad too. Maybe he could talk about Argentina's economy collapsing. But instead, he ignored these major events entirely.
(6) Economic policy and taxation. Bush talked a little about these. He said he wanted to accelerate the phasing out of the "marriage penalty" in the federal income tax. That is good, and it's also an embarrassment to Democrats who got caught on the wrong side of that issue. But then he said he wanted to "end the unfair double taxation of dividends." If Bush truly cared about double taxation, he could find some much better targets. As we all know, ending the double taxation of dividends will largely benefit the wealthiest Americans. Why not complain about the unfair double taxation of wages (via the federal income tax and the payroll tax)? Why not fight the unfair double taxation of workers (via the income tax and state/local Jim Crow sales taxes)?
Bush isn't wrong to oppose double taxation, but the way he does it makes him seem like a crude Republican seeking handouts for the rich, rather than a statesman. It lowers him, during a speech where he is supposed to be even-handed.
(7) Trade policy. This was perhaps Bush's biggest failure of the night. He totally omitted talk about trade. This is probably because of how badly confused he is on this subject. During the past year, Bush levied high new tariffs on lumber; high new tariffs on steel; and signed a bill providing bigger subsidies than ever to agribusiness corporations. In doing so, Bush completely abandoned the "free trade" policy that the Republican Party used to stand for. His flipflop is total. Now is Bush simply a rogue, rebel Republican going against his party, or has the party itself flipflopped?
Bush has made quite a mess of the whole issue of international trade. I can understand his not wanting to bring the subject up. But in a speech of this sort, he is required to talk about the most important topics and he chickened out on this one.
(8) Enron. Bush's speechwriters tossed in a sentence falsely claiming that Bush has helped to encourage "business integrity" and has brought "corporate criminals" to justice. Actually, he has brought more corporate criminals to the White House and into his Cabinet than he ever brought to justice. In his speech he never mentioned Enron by name. But the Enron disaster, and the scandals of other large corporations, were the biggest story in America during the first several months of 2002.
Bush cannot simply wave his hand at this and pretend that it went away. He is doing a great disservice to future generations of Americans by failing to get serious about curbing corporate criminal mismanagement.
Overall -- Bush made the usual number of slips and mis-statements. Some of them appear to have been intentionally inserted by his speechwriters, perhaps to entertain themselves. For example, did you know that the only reason any nation has weapons of mass destruction is to "dominate, intimidate or attack" others? France and Great Britain and the USA might be a little insulted to learn that, eh? Or how about this one -- did you know that any nation that possesses nuclear weapons faces "economic stagnation, isolation and hardship"? That might not surprise Russia, but I think Israel, Pakistan, India, China, France, Great Britain, and the United States might raise an eyebrow.
I will admit that the speechwriters generally did a good job. And Bush expressed himself better than usual. But the speech that he tried to deliver was built for someone with greater credibility, someone with broader shoulders. Coming from Bush, the words were just one more act of glossing over, hedging, and dodging.
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