Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A revolution of conscience?

Highlights from Bush's State of the Union address:

Winking at War Widows -- Bush read from a letter a KIA soldier had written to his family before his death. The widow and parents were in the audience. The camera showed Laura Bush turning around to shake their hands, then cut back to Bush, who looked over, leaned in, put on the CharmSmirk, and winked. Winked! As if he were saying, "Yer on da tee vee!"

It reminded me of some of the best advice I ever got. Just before I taught community college students for the first time, I approached one of my wisest teachers for advice. He said, "Be friendly and enthusiastic, but not overly familiar." Bush goes for the jugular with familiarity, at the expense of friendliness and enthusiasm. Or curiosity.

Anyway, I don't know if Emily Post ever addressed it, but I'm pretty sure presidents shouldn't wink at war widows from the rostrum of the House chamber.

Rostrum -- It was just fun to hear Bush chew through this word so early in the speech. Oops, I just broke my "don't make fun of Bush" rule. Hypocrisy is fun! "Rrrroshterm."

A Well-Behaved Nation -- Bush cited declines in abortion, teenage pregnancy, crime, drug use, violent crime, and welfare rolls to argue that our culture has undergone a "quiet transformation, a revolution of conscience." He did not, however, mention our superlative incarceration rate or rainbow parties.

The Grand Theory -- "Sometimes it can seem that history is turning in a wide arc, toward an unknown shore. Yet the destination of history is determined by human action, and every great movement of history comes to a point of choosing."

That's quite a statement. If that "human action" includes the Iraq War, then I see you one naivete for your optimism and one hubris for your confidence.

Claims that need to be checked out -- Cutting 140 programs will halve the deficit by 2009; tax relief left $880 million dollars in hands of taxpayers; Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will comprise 60 percent of the federal budget by 2030; welfare rolls are down by half over the past decade; from 24 democracies in 1945 to 122 now; and 4.6 million jobs, "more than Japan and the European Union combined."

Isolationism and Protectionism -- Most disturbing was Bush's characterization of those who would not wrestle down the great wide arc of human affairs and tear at its Gordian Knot with their teeth as "isolationists" and "protectionists." Broad brush much?

Virginia Governor Tim Kaine's Democratic response wasn't exactly inspiring, either. The Democrats' plan for winning the war on terror without "sacrificing...liberty"? Re-enlistment bonuses, asking oil companies to return some of their profits (to whom he does not say), investment in alternative energy, and some vague mumbling about a "rational immigration policy."

Yep, that ought to do it.


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