Thursday, February 03, 2005

Big Hug: I continued my annual boycott of the State of the Union speech (let me guess, the union is still STRONG!). I prefer to let the news media filter out the standing ovations and flowery rhetoric and hand me the substance.

From what I've read, the focus was to "save Social Security first" -- wait, that was when a Democrat was president. Now the goal is to prevent Social Security from going bankrupt, but Democrats now say there is no problem with the program, partly because of the trust fund. But Republicans say there is no trust fund. Are these two parties talking about the same program?

I'm still skeptical that Social Security is in any dire trouble. And I don't see how we can afford to put money into private accounts, which some estimate would cost trillions of dollars over the next few years. But it was encouraging that Bush seemed open to negotiation with the Democrats on this matter. We'll see if any negotiations actually take place, however. Truth is, this subject doesn't really concern me. I'd much rather have heard that Bush droned on and on about getting rid of the deficit than about private savings accounts.

But I am impressed with the foreign policy section of the speech. I like the tough words on Syria and Iran. And the subtle nudge at Saudi Arabia and Egypt is long overdue. Nobody should expect an invasion to be imminent, but those nations can't ignore the fact that they have been called out. Bush has never been a great speaker, choosing instead to let his actions define his presidency. So I believe this international pressure is going to mean something.

Then an Iraqi voter hugged the mother of an American Marine killed in action, prompting a long standing ovation. I don't know if this was staged or not, but it was symbolic nonetheless.

The speech has received positive reviews. It doesn't appear that Bush is going to take it easy during his second term. Whether that's good or bad will depend on your political point of view. I'm not worried much about what he's talking about now. If I've learned anything the past four years it's that a president is gauged largely by how he reacts to events as they unfold. And this new term hasn't yet begun.

P.S. South Park was running a crappy repeat, so I watched some of the punditry on the cable news channels after the speech. It's great that CNN is interviewing bloggers for their reaction, and Andrew Sullivan made some great comments. But why was Wonkette there? She has a funny blog chock full of butt-sex jokes, but nobody takes her political commentary seriously (that I know of). If CNN thinks she is the face of the political blogosphere, that network has sorely missed the point.


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