A Defensive State of the Union Address

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by David R. Remer PoliWatch.Org

About the only statement about the current state of affairs that rung out to me during the speech was the President's belief that the economy is strong and getting stronger. The balance of the speech appeared more a political stump speech, and one by a candidate on the defensive. The speech itself was well crafted for its intended purpose, to stump for reelection. It was designed to hit all the hot topic buttons in the minds of his political base like religious discrimination by the government and centrist American voter's issues like national defense, jobs, and medical costs.

More than half the speech from the beginning was focused on Iraq, terrorists, and homeland defense. In much the same manner that he associated Saddam Hussein with the 9/11 terrorists, tonight he defended previous claims of WMD in Iraq in by asserting "already the Kay Report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations." WMD-related program activities? What does that mean? It sounds like proof of WMD has been found. Then I looked at the text. This impression is completely false. And what are these significant amounts of equipment concealed from the U.N.? Are we talking computer equipment, weather monitoring vans, or freezers? Again, the impression the statement makes to support his previous claims of WMD is cleverly written to conceal, not to reveal. Given the hits the President is still taking on the premises for invasion, this part of the speech was entirely defensive and cleverly so.

He quite correctly stated the world is better off without Saddam's regime, but carefully avoided any mention of what it has cost us. In stark contrast to the common knowledge that the huge share of the human and financial costs being expended in Iraq (almost 500 Americans dead and billions of dollars spent) belong to the Americans, he offered a list of countries participating in Iraq. In an attempt to create an image of an international effort which his opponents have called for through the U.N. he stated, "Some critics have said our duties in Iraq must be internationalized. This particular criticism is hard to explain to our partners in Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Italy, Spain, Poland, Denmark, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, the Netherlands, Norway, El Salvador, and the 17 other countries that have committed troops to Iraq."

Notably absent from the speech was any reference to 'right to life' or anti-abortion statements, found in previous speeches. This calculated oversight was certainly guided by the recognition that women's votes are important in November and reminding them of his position on that issue should be avoided.

Nor was there any address of the national debt surpassing 7 trillion dollars this year. He did mention the deficit stating, "This will require that Congress focus on priorities, cut wasteful spending, and be wise with the people's money. By doing so, we can cut the deficit in half over the next five years." Very clever, placing the responsibility for the deficits on the Congress while fostering one of the largest social benefit programs in decades, dispensing with competitive bidding for Iraq contracts which may have saved tax payers 10's of millions of dollars, pressing for colonies on the Moon and Mars, and cutting taxes so deeply for the wealthiest in the nation that the very best he can offer is continuing to deficit spend for at least the next 5 years. This was clearly a defensive maneuver against attacks coming from both the left and right regarding the potential damage our national debt poses as a legacy for the Republican Party.

The President is taking one huge gamble on the economy by professing its growth in his speech. Being a religious man, I would guess he will be praying for the economic fabric to hold together at least until the day after November's elections. This was the only bold part of the speech in my opinion. Bold, because while statistics overall reveal and recovering economy, the sentiment among CEO's and Wall Street, workers and the unemployed is that the economy is not responding fast enough to permit any of these folks to relax.

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on January 20, 2004 11:56 PM.

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