The State of the Union

Thoughts on the State of the Union.

To lift the standards of our public schools, we achieved historic education reform — which must now be carried out in every school and in every classroom, so that every child in America can read and learn and succeed in life. To protect our country, we reorganized our government and created the Department of Homeland Security, which is mobilizing against the threats of a new era. To bring our economy out of recession, we delivered the largest tax relief in a generation. To insist on integrity in American business we passed tough reforms, and we are holding corporate criminals to account.

I realize that Bush is fiercely pro-life and that he has an inspirational Christian testimony, so I understand why he has garnered blind support from certain portions of the Right. What I don’t get is his claims of conservatism. When I think conservative, I think fiscal responsibility, small government, states’ rights, and isolationism. The Bush administration is none of the above. After deriding Gore as a “nation-builder” during the 2000 debates and promising to never use our military for such purposes, Bush has ushered in a new age of American imperialism, even winning from Congress the right to launch unilateral pre-emptive strikes on sovereign nations.

Bush’s “education reforms” have likewise helped to grow the Federal government to its largest size ever and have mandated unprecedented Federal control over local school systems. His Department of Homeland Security now exercises the authority to monitor our private lives with near complete abandon. And his mismanagement of the economy has cost us billions of dollars and thousands of jobs. (Before you claim that he inherited a bloated economy from Clinton, which is partly true, explain to me why Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill and most of Bush’s other chief economic advisors were ushered out in the closing weeks of 2002.) If we can’t count on a Republican President for fiscal conservatism, what’s the point?

A friend and I were discussing all of this last night, trying, as objectively as possible, to understand what is so conservative about Bush’s brand of “compassionate conservatism.” (Don’t get me started on the “compassionate” part.) This morning he sent me this link, writing, “Someone’s reading your mind.”

To boost investor confidence, and to help the nearly 10 million senior who receive dividend income, I ask you to end the unfair double taxation of dividends.

New rule: No one is allowed to play the “senior” card unless they’re discussing, well, seniors. To spin the dividend cut as a compassionate move in the interest of seniors is just dishonest. I can only imagine what kind of lightbulbs went off when someone coined the phrase “double taxation.” Mark my words, we’ll be hearing a lot more of that one in the coming weeks.

Join me in this important innovation to make our air significantly cleaner, and our country much less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

Environment-friendly Bush? I wonder if you can buy that in a two-pack with the “Pro-Affirmative-Action Lott” doll?

I urge you to pass both my faith-based initiative and the Citizen Service Act, to encourage acts of compassion that can transform America, one heart and one soul at a time.

See, now I actually like this idea in theory, but there is no way it will have legs if it ever squeaks through Congress. The other day, I flipped on an episode of “Random People Arguing” on CNNMSNBCFOX and caught a remarkable exchange between Jerry Falwell and Strawman Liberal Methodist Minister. SLMM did his very best to pin Falwell down with the following question: “Do you support the government’s use of your tax money for the funding of Muslim charities?” Falwell absolutely refused to answer the question, doing his best to maintain that tattooed grin. But SLMM continued to press until the two men regressed to adolescence right before my eyes. Honestly, Falwell threatened him. It was surreal. Dada, even.

And that’s exactly what we’re going to get in Congress when politicians begin trying to divvy up Federal monies for distribution to “faith-based” initiatives. Again, I can’t imagine why any conservative would support this.

Too many Americans in search of [drug] treatment cannot get it. So tonight I propose a new $600-million program to help an additional 300,000 Americans receive treatment over the next three years.

Can you imagine if Clinton had tried this? Lott, Robertson, and Buchanan would have called him a Socialist.

I ask the Congress to commit $15 billion over the next five years, including nearly $10 billion in new money, to turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean.

Well I’ll be damned. You know who’s responsible for this, don’t you? Bono, and God bless him for it. If Bush gets half of that amount out of Congress, I’ll be the first person to thank him. I can only imagine what kinds of “reproduction-related” measures will be attached to this one.

Whatever the duration of this struggle, and whatever the difficulties, we will not permit the triumph of violence in the affairs of men — free people will set the course of history.

This one is probably too obvious to even be worth mentioning, but with “we will not permit the triumph of violence in the affairs of men,” Bush has secured his place in the Meaningless Double-Speak Hall of Fame.

In each case, the ambitions of Hitlerism, militarism, and communism were defeated by the will of free peoples, by the strength of great alliances, and by the might of the United States of America.

Note to self: use this line in the conclusion of your dissertation. I couldn’t possibly imagine what “militarism” means in this context, but if this isn’t proof that the Cold War is alive and well, nothing is. How much do you want to bet that an earlier draft of this speech used “fascism” instead of “Hitlerism”? I guarantee it. Probably something like this:

Bush: “What’s fascism again?”
Rove: “Yeah, good point. Let’s change that to, uh, How ’bout Hitlerism?”
Speechwriter: “Hmmm, I don’t think that’s a word.”
silent stares from Bush and Rove
Speechwriter: “Hitlerism works for me.”

Tonight I have a message for the men and women who will keep the peace, members of the American Armed Forces. . . .

If war is forced upon us, we will fight in a just cause and by just means — sparing, in every way we can, the innocent. And if war is forced upon us, we will fight with the full force and might of the United States military — and we will prevail.

Note: I’m praying that we will somehow avoid this war because I don’t feel it is theologically just (despite Bush’s deliberate efforts to work that word into his rhetoric). Because I don’t think this war is justified, I feel that any casualties, any casualties, would be tragic and senseless wastes of lives that were created by God for more meaningful purposes. So please don’t take this as knee-jerk anti-Americanism, a phrase that, in recent weeks, has been thrown around much too casually and ignorantly by Rush Limbaugh and his ilk:

This and this is how our forces will “keep the peace.”

Americans are a free people, who know that freedom is the right of every person and the future of every nation. The liberty we prize is not America’s gift to the world, it is God’s gift to humanity. We Americans have faith in ourselves, but not in ourselves alone. We do not know — we do not claim to know all the ways of Providence, yet we can trust in them, placing our confidence in the loving God behind all of life, and all of history. May He guide us now. And may God continue to bless the United States of America.

This will be my most carefully measured comment. The histories of nations that have exercised imperial force under the guise of Providence should be telling to all but the most blindly ill-informed and arrogant.