”The State of the Union is Strong”
Vol: 64 Issue: 24 Wednesday, January 24, 2007
In most State of the Union speeches, the president opens with his assessment of the nation’s strength and health.
Bush 2006: Tonight the state of the union is strong, and together we will make it stronger.
Bush 2005: the state of the union is confident and strong.
Bush 2004: the American people are showing that the state of our union is confident and strong.
Bush 2003: In a whirlwind of change and hope and peril, our faith is sure; our resolve is firm; and our union is strong.
Bush 2002: As we gather tonight, our nation is at war; our economy is in recession; and the civilized world faces unprecedented dangers. Yet the state of our union has never been stronger.
Clinton 2000: My fellow Americans, the state of our union is the strongest it has ever been.
Clinton 1999: My fellow Americans, I stand before you tonight to report that the state of our union is strong.
Clinton 1998: Ladies and gentlemen, the state of our union is strong.
Clinton 1997: My fellow Americans, the state of our union is strong.
Clinton 1996: The state of the union is strong.
But in his 2007 address, President Bush waited until his address was almost over before delivering the punch line:
“Yet we can go forward with confidence — because the State of our Union is strong … our cause in the world is right … and tonight that cause goes on. God Bless.”
Watching the reaction from his audience, one can understand why Bush waited until the last sentence to give his assessment that the state of the union is “strong.” It was instructive to watch how the Democrats reacted to certain buzz words and buzz phrases.
In observing the Democratic reactions during the periods of applause, he probably was waiting until the end so he could avoid being pelted with rotten fruit.
On some domestic issues, like the need to balance the budget, cut Congressional ‘earmark’ spending and introduce medical malpractice reform, a few Democrats grudgingly climbed to their feet and applauded half-heartedly.
When it came to addressing the problem of entitlements, reforming Medicare/Medicade and Social Security, even Nancy Pelosi stood to applaud.
But what I was watching for was the reaction by the Democratic presidential hopefuls to get some sense of what chance any of President Bush’s ideas have of ever coming to fruition, should any of them capture the White House in ’08.
The two Bigs in the room, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, sat stoicly throughout most of his speech. I was particularly fascinated at their reaction to the foreign policy section.
The President laid out the consequences of failure in Iraq to the Congress and the country, and it wasn’t a pretty picture.
“If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. We could expect an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country and in time the entire region could be drawn into the conflict. For America, this is a nightmare scenario. For the enemy, this is the objective.”
When the president spoke of the necessity for victory in Iraq, none of the Democratic hopefuls for his job came to their feet. Barak Obama and Hillary Clinton didn’t even applaud from their seats.
The camera panned the audience from left to right — the aisle between them was clearly visible, since all the Democrats remained in their seats while all of the Republicans leapt to their feet to give ‘victory’ a standing ovation.
“Victory” is evidently not on the Democratic agenda.
Even when the President implored the Congress and the country to give the new strategy a chance for success, the Democrats remained unmoved.
“I have spoken with many of you in person. I respect you and the arguments you made,” Bush said. “We went into this largely united, in our assumptions and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure.”
“Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq, and I ask you to give it a chance to work,” Bush said. “And I ask you to support our troops in the field and those on their way.”
Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid were unmoved.
“While the president continues to ignore the will of the country, Congress will not ignore this president’s failed policy,” they said in a joint statement after his address. “His plan will receive an up-or-down vote in both the House and Senate, and we will continue to hold him accountable for changing course in Iraq.”
The Democrats selected freshman Senator Jim Webb to deliver the Democratic rebuttal. According to Webb, a majority of the Congress, a majority of the people, and a majority of the military now oppose the war. (A majority of the military?? Which ‘military’ — al Qaeda? )
According to Webb, the Democrats don’t want a ‘precipitous withdrawal’ — they want a withdrawal ‘in short order’ — a distinction without a difference, as nearly as I can tell.
Senator Webb chose Dwight Eisenhower to use as the Democrat’s historical model;
“As I look at Iraq, I recall the words of former general and soon-to-be President Dwight Eisenhower during the dark days of the Korean War, which had fallen into a bloody stalemate. “When comes the end?” asked the General who had commanded our forces in Europe during World War Two. And as soon as he became President, he brought the Korean War to an end.”
So, the Korean War is the Democrat’s model for victory. Although Webb intended this as a rebuttal to victory in Iraq, he unwittingly provided what is probably the single most powerful argument in favor of the Bush policy of staying the course.
“Tonight,” said Webb, “we are calling on this President to take similar action, in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way.”
History already has shown us the way, although Senator Webb evidently didn’t get the memo.
America pulled out of Korea before the job was done the year after I was born. Fifty-four years later, we now face a belligerent, nuclear-armed North Korea. Eisenhower didn’t bring the Korean War to an end. He postponed it for a half century. This is a solution?
Someone once observed that the definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over, hoping that this time, it will turn out differently. So in the end, it was really Jim Webb that informed America the true State of the Union, 2007.
Prozac all around.