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State of the Union

Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2007 5:14 AM

"This rite of custom brings us together at a defining hour � when decisions are hard and courage is tested," President Bush explained as he launched into his 2007 State of the Union speech. "We must have the will to face difficult challenges and determined enemies ��and the wisdom to face them together."

The Green Lantern School of Foreign Diplomacy is alive and well, I see.

It should be pointed out that the Decider doesn't make decisions. In fact, the Bush Administration is famous for saying that other people have to make decisions. Iran has to make a decision. North Korea has to make a decision. Iraq has to make a decision.

Bush waxes poetic about standards and purposes, yet his words ring hollow. "To extend this Nation's prosperity � to spend the people's money wisely � to solve problems, not leave them to future generations ��to guard America against all evil, and to keep faith with those we have sent forth to defend us."

Right. So please explain why we have 21,500 troops heading into harm's way and facing the same dilemma of insufficient armor for themselves and their vehicles.

"Next week," Bush promised, "I will deliver a full report on the state of our economy."

Um, isn't that part of what you're supposed to have done last night? State of the Union?

Bush nonetheless promises to issue a budget that will resolve the deficit within the next five years. That is, on someone else's watch, through the majority of their first term. And the deficit was eliminated at the beginning of your term, Mr. Bush � it is your irresponsible spending on your little adventure in Iraq that has brought it back with fur and claws.

Bush proposes cutting earmarks � special interest items slipped into bills at the last hour � by half by the end of the 110th Congress. Except that the Democratic majority has already suspended all earmarks for the full session.

It should be noted that his description of earmarks ��items that we did not vote into law, and which he did not sign into law, yet are treated as possessing the force of law ��fits his signing statements. Oh, wait, no, those are some kind of special privilege reserved the grand unitary poobah, right?

Bush's proposals all come off as lukewarm promises, particularly when they all have due dates of 5 years, 10 years, or longer. Yup, we need to fix health care, but we'll do that on someone else's watch. We need to address immigration, but, um, we'll make some kind of law thing, and set up a system, like. We need to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, blah, blah, blah.

Just with the health care issue, Bush proposes tax deductions that will allow lower-income families to afford health care, but actually addressing the issues of cost and quality are somewhere off in the future.

And then we trot out the War on Terror Act, replete with the same specious logic and assumptions.

"Yet one question has surely been settled ��that to win the war on terror, we must take the fight to the enemy," Bush affirms.

Sun Tzu explains that supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting ��addressing the diplomatic and poltiical aspects of the problem, rather than continuing to view terrorism as something that can be defeated solely through force of arms.

"For the terrorists, life since 9/11 has never been the same," Bush explains, describing how we've deprived the terrorists of sanctuary, easy movement, finance, and communications.

But why are we assuming that life for terrorists was one of cell phones and lattes? Isn't that somewhat at odds with the concept of a terrorist cell? I'd imagine that we've caused them far less discomfort and inconvenience than Bush asserts.

Next, Mr. Bush lists a stack of threats that we foiled, plans by al Qaeda to strike on the West Coast, or within the United States. But again, that means the catchy jingle of 'we're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them over here' is a lie, perhaps the most dangerous kind of falsehood.

President Bush warns us about the threat of Sunni extremists ��neglecting that the bulk of the Islamic world is Sunni, including our good friends in the House of Saud.
Moments later, he's telling us that we've just realized we're facing an increasing danger from Shiite extremists �

So, we toppled a Sunni minority that wasn't affiliated with al-Qaeda, and made possible the rise of a Shiite majority that is likely to bond with the Shiite state next door: Iran.

Oh, yeah, don't forget, this is the Decisive Ideological Struggle of Our Times.

I have to wonder if anyone really proofreads these speeches, because in the midst of waxing poetic about freedom, Mr. Bush asserts that, "Free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies -- and most will choose a better way when they are given a chance."

Yet, even within our own borders, we have conservative radio hosts who espouse poisoning polticial figures. We have religious leaders who voice wishes that Supreme Court justices come down with cancer so they'll have to retire. We have programs where the heroes kick ass from hour one to hour twenty-four. We have entire musical genres based on being a gangsta. No, bad ideas don't vanish in the light of freedom ��they sometimes proliferate quite nicely.

Bush ticks off achievements in the Middle East ��the elections in Lebanon, a new government in Afghanistan, the elections in Iraq. He neglects to mention that we also saw Israel bomb the shit out of Lebanon for a month, that the government in Afghanistan is heavily curtailed by a Shari'a court system, that the same government is under increasing attack by Taliban remnants, or that the Iraqis lose several hundred people each month to bombs and sectarian attacks.

"This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in," Bush tells us.

Um, no. This is exactly the fight we picked in Iraq, the inevitable consequence of toppling a Sunni minority dictator, disenfranchising an entire political party and opening the door for the Shiite majority to exact political and social revenge. Everyone understood that except the 'they'll greet us with flowers and candy' crowd.

"We are carrying out a new strategy in Iraq," Bush continues. Same strategy. More troops. Vague orders.

Yes, you heard that right. Back in December, I asked what the mission was. Bush described it Tuesday night as, "� find the terrorists and clear them out."

"Iraq's leaders know that our commitment is not open ended," he explains.

Except that we spent over three years hearing how we would stay to finish the job and not a moment longer, how we would accept nothing less than total victory, how we would stand up until the Iraqis found their own feet.

But perhaps most telling, in the midst of all the domestic agenda items, not one word was spoken about New Orleans or Hurricane Katrina. Or the gross negligence and widespread incompetence throughout the government (local and state officials not excluded).

Senator Jim Webb's response on behalf of the Democrats was perhaps the best I've ever seen.

On the other hand, I was gravely disappointed in ABC's Charlie Gibson, who was handing out GOP talking points to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama.

Neither of them chose to play.

John Edwards, however, fumbled over the success-in-Iraq hot potato until he could angle onto his own rehearsed points. I expect him to get hammered on that.

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