Just before George Bush gave his State of the Union (SOTU) speech filled with platitudes about bringing liberty and freedom to people around the world (the notable exception was the people of China), Cindy Sheehan was arrested by Capitol Hill police because of a t-shirt she was wearing which stated that 2, 242 American soldiers have died in Iraq. She had been invited by Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey to be her guest at the address at the Capitol building. Here, in her own words, is Cindy Sheehan's story about what happened.
Meanwhile, Bush went on to give a speech that was one of the most militaristic, bellicose, uncompromising, jingoistic speeches given at a State of the Union address in a long time. In fact, I defy anyone to show me a Presidential State of the Union address which went on longer about evil ones and American imperial might than this one, except for maybe one Franklin Roosevelt might have given in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor and America's declaration of war against the Germans and Japanese. Literally half of Bush's speech was about war, and American military might, and our domination of the world.
Particularly startling was the contrast between this address and the one he gave in January 2002. Back then, he had a country united behind him, he had standing ovations, en masse, from both sides of the aisle, and he had a lock on support for his fight against terror. Last night, just under half the Congress sat through many of the Republican ovation excesses (it got to be pretty embarrassing), just over half the country disagrees with his current Iraq policy, and every poll in the month of January shows a minority of the country believes he is doing a good job. His Presidential squandering of that unity and support will be one of the hallmarks of his Presidency.
Contrary to what many of the talking heads were saying last night (David Brooks and Tom Oliphant, in particular), I did not hear real conciliatory remarks, especially on Iraq and war.
He gave no quarter in his reiteration of continued war.
In fact, he pointedly slammed all Americans who have a different point of view.
He accused his opponents of wanting to leave "vicious attackers alone."
He declares that his opponents will not find "peace in retreat," or "honor in retreat."
He accuses his opponents of "allowing radical Islam to work its will."
He claims his opponents would leave "an assaulted world to fend for itself," that if his opponents would have their way, "we would signal to all that we no longer believe in our own ideals, or even in our own courage."
In obvious attempt to contrast himself with opponent of the Iraq war, he claims "we will never surrender to evil."
He goes on to attack "isolationism" as if his opponents are calling for it.
His lack of conciliation, his total lack of recognition of the realities in Iraq and Afghanistan and any willingness to share that with the American people, his self-righteous condemnation of critics -- all were obvious to me.
Bush also seems to have discovered, six years into his Presidency, that America has an addiction to oil. It's like someone woke him from his somnabulence with news that Saudi Arabia just might not be our friend and that Exxon/Mobil just announced the largest profits of any corporation, ever, in history. Between now and November, Bush and the GOP will, in all likelihood, try to take the lead on this big issue that worries the American people.
What's Bush's solution for the oil addiction? Apparently, coal and nuclear power plants (both industries that some major investors are shying away from because of the poor projected returns and liability problems inherent in those industries) are top priority for him. He also threw in some verbiage about "better batteries," and "ethanol, not just from corn, but from wood chips and stalks, or switch grass." (By the way, when you go to the White House website to read Bush's speech, the White House press office, instead of simply providing the text for the speech, has inserted every single one of the instances of applause into the text. It's pretty laughable).
Bush persisted with his position that he has constitutional war authority to conduct his wiretaps. No compromise, no excuses, just conviction tolerating no contradiction.
And you know Bush is in trouble when he proposes a commission to study the impact of the baby boom generation on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. This would, of course, go on long past the November elections, but would give him sufficient cover in the meantime. He can say: "Hey, let's wait until the commission provides its findings." It's somewhat like his other mantra: "Hey, let's wait until the prosecutor finishes his investigation."
This paragraph from his speech was a clear message to John Roberts and Samuel Alito -- abortion needs to be outlawed. Revealingly, it came just after he acknowledged their appointments.
A hopeful society has institutions of science and medicine that do not cut ethical corners, and that recognize the matchless value of every life. Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research: human cloning in all its forms, creating or implanting embryos for experiments, creating human-animal hybrids, and buying, selling, or patenting human embryos. Human life is a gift from our Creator -- and that gift should never be discarded, devalued or put up for sale.
No conciliation there.
Other topics he covered included HIV/AIDS, education, Katrina, the Helping America's Youth Initiative, and Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King.
I think we can deduce, from this speech, some of the outlines of the Republican game-plan for elections 2006.
-- Bull your way through (literally and figuratively) to November on the war on terror and the war in Iraq, probably throwing in a few troop reductions in the interim (we are saving the country from attack);
-- Dominate the energy issue (we are saving the country from the radical Islamic countries that provide our oil);
-- Give no quarter at all on the issue of wiretaps (we are saving the country from attack);
-- Allow no anti-patriotic, un-American criticism of the Bush war on terror (we are saving the country from attack);
-- Concentrate on issues most Americans can get behind (it's hard for Americans to be against oil independence, helping children, helping sick people, giving relief to hurricane victims);
-- Continue to push the Patriot Act (we are saving the country from attack);
-- Continue to push for making the tax cuts permanent (we are saving the country's economy).