February 1, 2006

State of the Union

Posted in Politics at 11:28 am by antonello

The speech was filled with Bush suggesting strong action against strawmen like “isolationists.” This was particularly apparent during the NSA section which justified unwarranted wiretapping to the prevention of 9-11. No one has seriously suggested that the government shouldn’t have the ability to tap suspected opponents. Bush took his critics on by changing the frame of the debate in a typical Rovian manner: attack critics on their perceived strengths. While some other politicians may have obfuscated on what their actions had been (e.g. I never engaged in wiretapping), Bush obfuscates on the terms by attacking his critics’ legitmacy (“I did wiretap, it is perfectly legal and within my power and it is necessary for the security of the country.” or in other words “Why do you want the terrorists to win?”) What Bush has never explained is why FISA system was not adequate to the task.
The energy / research section of the report all had laudable goals, but as is always the case with these speeches, completely unsubstantiated. Let’s see how these suggestions play out in actual policy. For an example from the past, take Bush’s promise to radically augment the aid to fight AIDS in Africa. Big promises have been mitigated in practive by limited funds and by political objections. or for that matter cutting the budget in half by 2009!

Another less than inspiring rhetorical device was the theme of “building America’s character.” It seemed like a flimsy way of fusing unlike policy iniatives.

Kaine’s response was adequate, but I had hoped for more. He did a fairly good job of demonstrating the Democratic successes on the state level. He hammered home the Democrats efficiency and competence, something which should not be lost amongst the disaster of the Medicare drug bill. Still, Kaine did not attack Republican corruption. Bush, the K Street Machine and Delay are all symptoms of endemic corporate cronyism. Kaine missed out an opportunity to contrast Democratic successes versus Republican failures, particularly at a time when these things have come under scrutiny.

It undoubtedly would have assailed as a partisan attack, but frankly when your party controls no part of the government and can’t even coordinate a policy among 41 people for a filibuster, what do you have to lose?

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