State of the Union 2k6: Analysis: Fear and Lying in LasWashington

President Bush gave his fifth State of the Union speech Jan. 31. To me, the highlight was Dick Cheney sitting menacingly behind the president muttering, “Good. I can feel your anger. I am defenseless. Take your weapon – strike me down with all of your hatred, and your journey to the Dark Side will be complete!” About halfway through the speech, he began to shoot lightning from his fingertips at Senator Hillary Clinton. The speech itself was interesting too, and much easier to write a full story about. The full speech was over 5000 words, so I will not reproduce the whole thing here. We’ll go through this piece by piece, alternating quotes that stuck out to me with my analysis of them. “Tonight the state of our Union is strong — and together we will make it stronger.” Here’s problem number one. The state of our Union isn’t strong. We’re about to hit the national debt limit of $8 trillion. We’re still in an unjust war. Our civil liberties are being infringed on more and more every day. The Abramoff scandal is revealing corruption at the federal level (worse yet, many Americans think that corruption is just the way things are in Washington, all the time). The founding fathers are rolling over in their graves at what we’ve become. “Lacking the military strength to challenge us directly, the terrorists have chosen the weapon of fear.” The real trick is to use both military strength and fear. Keep the country at war because if we stop, the terrorists will attack us. You have Dick Cheney’s word on that. Give up your civil liberties now, they’re no good if you’re dead. Fear may be bin Laden’s weapon, but it is also the chief political weapon of the Bush administration. “We are the nation that saved liberty in Europe, and liberated death camps, and helped raise up democracies, and faced down an evil empire. Once again, we accept the call of history to deliver the oppressed and move this world toward peace.” This one really frustrated me. Bush draws a World War II parallel to support his Iraq war, but completely ignores the real WWII parallel: Darfur. Where the hell are their liberties, Mr. President? There is real genocide being committed in Sudan, and we’re doing nothing. My guess is because they have no oil to offer to us. “We’re on the offensive in Iraq, with a clear plan for victory.” The American people have been asking to see this so-called “plan for victory” laid out for a long time now, but it seems to still just be rhetoric. No concrete guidelines were given in the State of the Union, and there are still no deadlines set. “…our coalition has been relentless in shutting off terrorist infiltration, clearing out insurgent strongholds, and turning over territory to Iraqi security forces.” Bush left out the part where we build our own permanent strongholds afterward. Eventually, we will probably turn over most of the territory to the Iraqis. But we will also keep at least one permanent military base in the country. Just like we’ve done in over 120 other countries where our troops are stationed. “…we have benefitted from responsible criticism and counsel offered by members of Congress of both parties. In the coming year, I will continue to reach out and seek your good advice. Yet, there is a difference between responsible criticism that aims for success, and defeatism that refuses to acknowledge anything but failure.” Bush and cronies have proved time and time again that they believe any form of dissent is unpatriotic. Responsible criticism would be nodding in agreement, anything else is helping the terrorists. “Ultimately, the only way to defeat the terrorists is to defeat their dark vision of hatred and fear by offering the hopeful alternative of political freedom and peaceful change. So the United States of America supports democratic reform across the broader Middle East.” Democracy elected Hugo Chavez, a sworn enemy of Bush. Democracy elected Hamas. Hell, democracy elected Bush, somehow. Once. As for defeating the “dark vision of hatred and fear,” I think that will require the CIA to re-begin work on MK-ULTRA, its mind-control research program from the 50’s and 60’s. We’d at least need to develop some kind of mind-reading technology, and illegalize “unpatriotic” thoughts. “The Palestinian people have voted in elections. And now the leaders of Hamas must recognize Israel, disarm, reject terrorism, and work for lasting peace.” Actually, they were elected because the people don’t want any of those things. That, and the fact that the Fatah party was corrupt. Hamas never said they planned on recognizing Israel or any of those other things, and the fact that they were elected makes it unlikely they will change their minds. “Tonight, let me speak directly to the citizens of Iran: America respects you…” Somehow, I doubt the people of Iran watch the State of the Union address. This is a PR statement, nothing more (big surprise). “Our country must also remain on the offensive against terrorism here at home. The enemy has not lost the desire or capability to attack us. … so I ask you to reauthorize the Patriot Act.” Fear. Here it is again. “Reauthorize the Patriot Act, or the terrorists WILL kill you.” “It is said that prior to the attacks of September the 11th, our government failed to connect the dots of the conspiracy. We now know that two of the hijackers in the United States placed telephone calls to al Qaeda operatives overseas. But we did not know about their plans until it was too late. So to prevent another attack –- based on authority given to me by the Constitution and by statute — I have authorized a terrorist surveillance program…” More fear. Also, the constitution does not give the president power to illegally wiretap Americans. The government even gets 72 hours after beginning tapping to get a warrant, and not even that was done. “Previous Presidents have used the same constitutional authority…” Bush was still on the subject of wiretapping in this quote. Richard Nixon is a previous president who comes to mind. “Our economy is healthy and vigorous, and growing faster than other major industrialized nations. In the last two-and-a-half years, America has created 4.6 million new jobs — more than Japan and the European Union combined.” Bush neglected to mention the 3.2 million jobs that were lost during his presidency prior to 2.5 years ago. And the fact that China is growing a hell of a lot faster than we are. And the fact that many of the new jobs are low wage jobs, while programming and manufacturing jobs are outsourced to Asia. “…the American people have turned in an economic performance that is the envy of the world.” I’m sure the whole world is jealous of our national debt, and our 35.9 million citizens below the poverty line (according to the Census Bureau in August 2004). “We hear claims that immigrants are somehow bad for the economy — even though this economy could not function without them.” This I agree with. The problem is that later, Bush turns around and says, “Keeping America competitive requires an immigration system that upholds our laws, reflects our values, and serves the interests of our economy. Our nation needs orderly and secure borders. To meet this goal, we must have stronger immigration enforcement and border protection. And we must have a rational, humane guest worker program that rejects amnesty…” We cannot afford to send mixed messages, Mr. President! “In the last five years, the tax relief you passed has left $880 billion in the hands of American workers, investors, small businesses, and families.” Actually, most of that money is in the hands of the aristocrats and corporations. Anyone who was poor prior to the tax cuts is hardly better off (though as a PR move, I will admit that it seems to have worked). “Yet the tax relief is set to expire in the next few years. If we do nothing, American families will face a massive tax increase they do not expect and will not welcome.” So we’ll pay for this several hundred billion dollar war with magic, I guess. Or we can just cut our shit-giving social programs, and neglect those in poverty even more than we already have. “Every year of my presidency, we’ve reduced the growth of non-security discretionary spending, and last year you passed bills that cut this spending.” Our defense budget is what really needs to be cut. We spend billions a year maintaining weapons and fighters that were built to fight the Soviets. The Russian MiG is not something we need to worry about combating. Nor do we need to spend billions to build a ridiculous space-age missile defense system, nor do we need enough nukes to destroy the entire planet 25 times over. “By passing these reforms, we will save the American taxpayer another $14 billion next year, and stay on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009.” I’m interested to see whether or not this will actually happen. I seriously doubt it. Especially when Bush has made no plans to cut defense spending, which accounts for about half our national budget right now. In 2003, the United States military budget accounted for 47% of the worldwide total military spending. Our defense budget in 2004 was $437 billion. Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria spent a combined $13 billion (almost 3% of our defense budget). So to save money, cut defense. End of story. “We can tackle this problem together, if you pass the line-item veto.” Here’s something that might be good, if used properly. The line-item veto would allow the president to veto only parts of a bill, rather than the entire thing. This would be great for controlling pork barrel spending, but it could also easily be abused. It’s a toss-up. Personally, I’d rather just have honest politicians who don’t try to slip little things into bills the night before they’re voted on. But that’s just me, and I don’t see it happening anytime soon. “Congress did not act last year on my proposal to save Social Security– yet the rising cost of entitlements is a problem that is not going away. And every year we fail to act, the situation gets worse.” I will admit, I’m not extremely knowledgeable on the whole issue of Social Security. But given his track record so far, I’m tempted to say this is just more rhetoric with little factual basis. It’s probably just another attempt to enlarge the private sector, something the rich benefit from. There might be trouble ahead once the baby boomers start collecting, but I do believe that we need Social Security. “So tonight, I ask you to join me in creating a commission to examine the full impact of baby boom retirements on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. This commission should include members of Congress of both parties, and offer bipartisan solutions.” There’s an idea I might like. A real bipartisan commission to investigate the problem, rather than taking immediate action. Hopefully the results won’t get watered down or spun around like the 9/11 Commission’s report was. “With open markets and a level playing field, no one can out-produce or out-compete the American worker.” That’s a pretty arrogant thing to say, especially considering we get nearly all of our goods from Asia. That aside, the problem is establishing a level playing field. We are so dependant on China, that there is no way we can demand they establish a minimum wage or better worker rights. “Keeping America competitive requires affordable health care. Our government has a responsibility to provide health care for the poor and the elderly, and we are meeting that responsibility.” In August of 2004, 44 million (14-ish percent) Americans did not have health insurance. That number certainly did not drop to zero in 2005. “Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. And here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world. The best way to break this addiction is through technology. Since 2001, we have spent nearly $10 billion to develop cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable alternative energy sources — and we are on the threshold of incredible advances.” Everybody freeze, right where you are. I want you all to remember this moment. This statement is true. We are addicted to oil. And George W. Bush just admitted it. We also could be on the verge of a breakthrough. There are hydrogen cars and hydrogen fueling stations in parts of the US. What we need to do now is make the technology more widespread. At some point, America switched from horse-drawn carriages to gasoline automobiles. Now, it is time for America to switch from gasoline automobiles to hydrogen automobiles. It’s gonna take a lot of work, but we have to do it. The planet’s supply of oil is not infinite. We also need alternative energy sources to replace our coal and oil power plants, but nuclear power is not the answer. It’s dangerous, there’s a threat of nuclear meltdown, and nuclear waste is not a fun thing to deal with. What we need now is a good old-fashioned revolutionary scientific breakthrough. “Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal: to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025. By applying the talent and technology of America, this country can dramatically improve our environment, move beyond a petroleum-based economy, and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past.” I really am astounded at Bush’s energy and environmental focus in this speech. I was pleasantly surprised. I will be overjoyed if we are able to accomplish this, but I remain skeptical that it will ever become more than just talk. I will leave the part of Bush’s speech on education to my fellow editors to cover, so read that editorial. “Yet many Americans, especially parents, still have deep concerns about the direction of our culture, and the health of our most basic institutions. They’re concerned about unethical conduct by public officials, and discouraged by activist courts that try to redefine marriage.” Oh, no you don’t. Don’t even try that. “Activist courts that try to redefine marriage?” Here’s something to ponder: Brown v. Board of Education. You remember, “Separate is not equal.” Here’s another precedent: Roe v. Wade. My point is that the activist courts are the ones that are trying to make same-sex marriage and abortion illegal, despite what the supreme court has said. I’d call contradicting previous rulings pretty activist. Say what you want about marriage, but the fact of the matter is that citizens should be guaranteed certain rights, one of which is marriage. Not civil unions, marriage. Separate is not equal, homosexuals are not in any way infringing on the rights of others, and the government has no right to impose a certain brand of ‘morality.’ The next part of the speech is pretty standard. Fight AIDS, bring equality, help all Americans. All good ideas, but nothing you wouldn’t expect to hear in a State of the Union address. “Lincoln could have accepted peace at the cost of disunity and continued slavery. Martin Luther King could have stopped at Birmingham or at Selma, and achieved only half a victory over segregation. The United States could have accepted the permanent division of Europe, and been complicit in the oppression of others. Today, having come far in our own historical journey, we must decide: Will we turn back, or finish well?” More Iraq rhetoric. It’s been a big part of the speech, and it’s been several paragraphs since it was last mentioned. Bush needed to allude to it before the end of his speech. I’m not even going to bother with these parallels. The fact of the matter is, we were deliberately misled into this unjust war, and our standing in the world has suffered because of it. So that’s about the gist of it. 5400 words, 38 minutes (without applause), and more Bush than I ever wanted to deal with. Good luck this year, everyone. My guess is that we’ll need it.