Wednesday, February 01, 2006


The State of the Union Address is obsolete.

I didn’t watch the State of the Union address. I don’t watch TV, and even if I did I wouldn’t watch this sort of thing, because TV relies too much on presentation and appeals to the emotional mind.

I prefer to think about politics…

So I set down this morning to read the address. VIA Orbusmax, KTAL TV provides a transcript:

5406 words about nothing… Or at least nothing startling or new…

Article 2, section 3 of the US Constitution provides the framework for this address that wasn’t called “the State of the Union” until FDR used the phrase in 1935. In a day when the fastest communication moved in a saddlebag, such an “annual message” likely served a legitimate purpose. Washington and Adams 1 delivered their messages in person; Jefferson began a tradition of delivering a written message, a tradition that held until 1913.

Today our acronym-laden media refers to SOTU, giving us the pre-game, the live coverage, the rebuttal, analyses of both, and then the post-game, which will surely last for days. The message itself is tightly scripted, professionally produced, and propped with the occasional cameo of the “ordinary” American, a wrinkle that began with that master showman, Ronald Reagan.

I think we need a better acronym for this: How about PPPP? That stands for Policy Platform Propaganda Presentation…

Dog & Pony themes we have heard before:

Four plugs against isolationism and one against protectionism; one for the odd combination of “border security” and a guest worker’s program. The President clearly intends to continue pursuing an aggressive foreign policy militarily while pushing globalist economics. How he will pay the freight for his adventures isn’t specified – as usual. Certainly not with tax revenues from Joe Averageman – his job is moving to China. If he learns Spanish, maybe he can work  - for half a wage – with the Mexicans…

Tax cuts get their salutatory plug: Good for the relatively small number of Americans who pay significant income taxes, meaningless for most. Nor are the tax cuts meaningful to the overall economy: 880 billion in “tax relief” sounds enormous, yet it is only 1.5% of the GDP and 2.2% of consumer spending.

On the flip side, and in almost the same breath, we’re handed the sacrificial lamb of “fiscal responsibility:” Continued cuts in “the growth of non-security discretionary spending.” Mind that phrase. Every year, another qualifying adjective is inserted – That because we’re running out of “discretionary” items that can be cut…

Then the expected potshot at “mandatory spending, or entitlements.” The potshot is a rimshot coming from a man who fought for the biggest increase in entitlement spending in the history of the Republic. In principle, I think Social Security reform of some kind is a good idea, even a necessity. But juxtaposed against the Medicare Cyclops, the totality begins to resemble what the drug benefit’s opponents said it was: A sellout. The biggest “beneficiary” of the prescription drug entitlement is the pharmaceutical industry. The biggest “beneficiary” of any currently proposed privatization scheme will be the markets which will receive the infusions of cash.

Remember the NASDAQ in 2000… Market collapses today are unlikely but not impossible. Taken together, you could foresee a time when millions could be utterly impoverished, starving and homeless, but still have their meds… If they can afford the co-pay…

Terror: Twenty mentions in several contexts, including spygate. 700 words on Iraq, including the dutiful Iraq widow in the audience shtick. Four mentions of “drugs” in a terrorist-related context; two for organized crime. Two things:

“A sudden withdrawal of our forces from Iraq would abandon our Iraqi allies to death and prison ... put men like bin Laden and Zarqawi in charge of a strategic country” No mention that our invasion gave them their opening…

“Our own generation is in a long war against a determined enemy - a war that will be fought by Presidents of both parties, who will need steady bipartisan support from the Congress.”

This one really disturbs me, even though it’s just more recycled rhetoric. Put together with the spying, the conflation of terror and black market activities, the Patriot Act, and the more accepted Presidential war powers, the totality is a power grab. Our liberties will not survive the generations-long war implied, whether we win or not. If the power grab survives this administration, it’ll be permanent.

A plug for AIDS programs; a mention of malpractice reform. No news…

Hat tips to the Supremes… The Court, that is…

A not new but new for the President plug for more Science and Math teachers. A good idea, but frankly I doubt it will help. What we need is what South Korea recently lost: A scientist-hero. Science is way too far down the list of interests for most American kids.

Maybe he could get Cheryl Crowe or Madonna to work on “sexing up” the sciences…

And some discussion on the one thing on the National plate that is really still completely within our power to affect: Energy policy. We can still repair this if we start now. For the rest of it, for terrorism, democratic reforms, even the environment - mentioned once in connection with energy policy – the die is cast. The President used the “N” word three times – two in connection with somebody else’s weapons, once in connection with our energy policy. I hope we hear the words “nuclear power” from this administration a lot more in the future – even if GWB never learns how to pronounce it.

And the Democratic response? Didn’t read it… Why bother?

Your blog is middle of the road and tend to agree. Just like most of the last 15 SOTU's. There are a few things - mainly comments about tactics of the Democrats that were interesting, but did myself a favor by missing the rest of it. Clinton never said anything meaningful - not because he was not a good speaker - because he could never be trusted. Bush is more sincere in some areas, but also more boring and alot of the same blah, blah, blah like the rest of them.
Look, it’s a State of the Union speech. Most do not lay out bold plans or visions. To my mind there have been precious few that had big bold vision:

1) Kennedy - man to the moon ( I think that was a SOTU )
2) Regan – Star Wars.
3) Clinton – National Health Care.

Those are the only ones that really spring to my mind with big new initiatives in them that people really thought the president would pursue, if not achieve. Sure, a few years back Bush talked about going to Mars, but no one really thought it would be pursued, and it wasn’t.

In the end SOTU’s tend to be rather banal, with the press ginning them up simply because they are an annual occurrence. Can anyone imagine what it would be like if the president, every year, continually announced bold new initiatives? It would be horrible to my mind. Government would constantly be jumping up to do the latest and greatest big thing every year simply for ratings. Thank God SOTU’s tend to be dull affairs. The last thing we need is another really great, new and improved, as seen on TV, government program every year. Lets stick to being bankrupted by the inane programs we have rather than accelerating the pace.
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