Tuesday, January 31, 2006

State of the Union message

Thoughts as I watched:

I have RealPlayer fired up, streaming from the House Chamber; Hastert & Cheney are announcing who gets to escort the President into the chamber. It's 5:59, California time (my time stamps may be a bit off, if there's streaming lag). Let's see how this goes, shall we?

6:00 -- Mrs. Bush has been seated; diplomatic corps is coming in.

6:02 -- the Supreme Court justices come in -- looks like Alito got confirmed just in time to get his ticket. (Actually, the picture isn't good enough for me to be sure, but since he's been sworn in, I would presume it's him.)

6:06 -- While waiting, I remember that I had a dream last night that had Dick Cheney in it. Strangely, he was accompanying my family on a San Diego vacation, for no apparent reason. We were getting ready to head to Petco Park for a San Diego Padres triple-header, if one can imagine such a thing. The rest of us were dressed sensibly for an afternoon and evening at the ball park, but Cheney was in a suit and tie. I remember trying to decide if I should avoid any political discussion, if I should try to engage him in some kind of constructive discourse (expressing my disagreements as politely as possible) -- or say what I REALLY think.

6:08 -- Cheney is saved from my wrath by the Sergent-at-Arms: here comes the President.

6:11 -- I wonder what's in the large envelopes he just handed to Cheney and Hastert at the podium? Copies of the speech? Autographed head shots? Hmmm.

6:12:40 -- Speech starts with a tribute to Corretta Scott King. Standing ovation. Predictable, but certainly approrpriate.

6:14 -- Nearly two minutes in before he says the State of the Union is "strong."

6:16 -- First mention of September 11th.

6:18 -- Osama bin Laden actually gets mentioned. (Iraq mentioned a few phrases later...)

6:25 -- On the whole, I agree with what he says we have to do in Iraq. I'm annoyed at his complaining about "defeatism" on the part of some critics. And, I don't entirely share his rosy outlook on how things are going. But I have to admit that the question of "what we do now" is only slightly releated to the question of whether we should have gone into Iraq in the first place.

This doesn't mean, however, that we should consider that question completely moot. Analyzing how that decision was made is, IMHO, important as a guide to future decisions. (Whether you think it was correct or not.)

6:35 -- Here comes the domestic surveilance -- excuse me, TERRORIST surveilance defense.

6:36 -- Interesting that they focused for a moment on the Supreme Court justices as Bush talked about this. I presume the Court members normally try to remain as impassive as they looked there.

6:37 -- What's the sudden attack on isolationism? I mean, yeah, I agree, isolationism is an out-of-date policy, but didn't we settle that around 1941? Is anyone really preaching it now?

6:40 -- I expect to hear a lot of debunking (or disputing, if you prefer) of his job and economic growth numbers tomorrow. For me, I don't have the numbers on tap, but I wonder if people besides me will note the dissonance between "make my tax cuts permanent" and "cut the deficit in half." (You mean the deficit we didn't have before your tax cuts...?)

I suppose linking "earmark reform" with the line-item veto was inevitible.

6:44 -- OK, that's interesting. I think the Dems just got up an applauded the failure of his Social Security proposal last year. (And good for them.)

The notion of a bi-partisan commission to work on entitlement reform is a good one; I just don't believe, under the current government, will truly be bi-partisan. (Maybe next year.)

6:46 -- "Affordable health care" gets a good round of applause. Claiming that we are meeting the needs of the poor and elderly does not.

6:48 -- Two minutes on health care? Nothing about the savings accounts the commentators have been talking about? Maybe he'll go back to it.

6:50 -- The energy proposals sound good, if they're really followed up. Thirty years later than they should be (and I don't blame Bush or the Republicans entirely for that), and not drastic enough, in my opinion -- but it we really do it, a good start.

6:52 -- I'd love to hear Bush actually explain the concept of "nanotechnology."

6:54 -- "In recent years, America has become a more hopeful nation." Wow, is that counter to my personal experience. The 1990's was a great time of optimism; the time between the end of the Cold War and 9/11, I think, will be looked back on as one of the happiest times in our country's history, when we had nothing better to worry about than the President's sex life. The 21st century, by contrast, has pretty much sucked so far.

6:56 -- Ah, yes, there's Alito. I wonder if O'Connor has a seat somewhere? Hmmmm...they're showing the ovation...if she's in the crowd I can't see it.

Meantime, here comes the social agenda. Abortion (has it really gone down during his presidency? I've heard the opposite), gay marriage (obliquely referred to), now human cloning...

7:03 -- "May God Bless America." Speech over, about 51 minutes. Pretty generic, no particularly bold initiatives. A relatively lackluster ovation at the end, I think. (Well, his popularity rating is pretty low.)

On the whole, not much one can disagree with on the surface. The devil is in the details and the follow-up. Speaking personally, I have little confidence in either, based on experience with this President. Now let's see what the Democratic response is...

7:11 -- Parlimentary details handled, joint session adjourned by Hastert.

7:17 -- Democratic response starts, Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia. He too starts with Corretta Scott King.

7:20 -- Already tired of him saying "There's a better way." (Even if he is right.)

7:21 -- He mentions the Medicare drug benefit fiasco; I don't think I heard anything about THAT from the President.

7:25 -- Did they glue this guy's left eyebrow on too high?

7:27 -- "God Bless the United States of America." Finished. Short, largely accurate (I think), but not forceful enough. And Kaine doesn't impress me very much as a speaker. I would have liked to have heard more numbers and hard facts; it's what the opposition does best, whoever it is.

Now it's time for the spin doctors...and time for me to go play "City of Heroes" or something.

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