Here's the link to the transcript & video. Once upon a time, I'd have gone out and done a blogosphere reaction round-up, but our readers recommended Dave Schuler's roundup, so I don't have to. WizbangBlog even has a State of the Union Roundup, and a Democratic Response roundup.
Thought I'd throw out a few stream of consciousness comments here, kind of like Vodkapundit's liveblogged stuff, but done at the end and all in one post...
- Overall, this was good. Surprisingly good.
- No question what the defining moment was for this speech. I thought it was the looong standing ovation given to Safia Taleb al-Suhail and all of the Iraqi people - until Ms. al-Suhail stepped forward to hug Mr. and Mrs. Norwood, and brought the house down.
- W. isn't a speaker. Tony Blair is a speaker, often more lethal on his feet than with a prepared text. W. needs to craft and practice, or he's in trouble. But then, that ain't his archetype. The cowboy lives by deeds, standing tall and then giving his gun a little twirl at the end. Now think of the megaphone at Ground Zero. The aircraft carrier landing. Dropping in on a warring and dangerous Baghdad to serve turkey to the troops. Ms. al-Suhail and the Norwoods. Bush communicates best in deeds, in tableaux that speak incredibly loudly. I'm trying to recall another politician who could match that particular style and gift. I can't. It's W's saving political grace and potential disaster point, all in one.
- Yeah, yeah, the Union is strong and all that. What's a President going to say, "sorry folks, everything sucks?" OK, besides Jimmy Carter...
- "Now, as we see a little gray in the mirror -- or a lot of gray..."
Sore point there, W. Interestingly, I keep seeing a self-deprecating wit when I tune into his full speeches or events live or online. It's something that doesn't come through in his media profile, just as Kerry was more human than his media profile showed.
- "I will send you a budget that holds the growth of discretionary spending below inflation, makes tax relief permanent, and stays on track to cut the deficit in half by 2009."
Better, but it still doesn't add up. Of course. The 80s are dead, the war is on, and problems are looming. Say it with me: sac-ri-fice. Maybe McCain can deliver that theme better in 2008, he speaks about it often and well.
- "I've appointed a bipartisan panel to examine the tax code from top to bottom. And when their recommendations are delivered, you and I will work together to give this nation a tax code that is pro-growth, easy to understand, and fair to all."
Which assumes that members of Congress, in either party, are interested in that, vs. concessions & favours that behold voters and interest groups to them. Waste of a good 10 seconds.
- "It is time for an immigration policy that permits temporary guest workers..."
Yeah. Ask the Germans how that one goes.
- Folks, I know Social Security is hugely important, but MEGO (my eyes glaze over). Sorry.
- At least the USA doesn't have the same demographic aging bomb as Europe or Japan. But who steps up with a tough debate about overhauling their system? America. Tells you a lot, when you think about it.
- "Because HIV/AIDS brings suffering and fear into so many lives, I ask you to reauthorize the Ryan White Act to encourage prevention, and provide care and treatment to the victims of that disease. (Applause.) And as we update this important law, we must focus our efforts on fellow citizens with the highest rates of new cases, African American men and women."
Wonder if anyone else saw the inevitable stinger in this one? The focus of that act isn't research, it's ongoing care. How will W. propose to accomplish this focus? How about funding programs and outreach via the most coherent institution in black communities: their churches. Ten gets you 20 that he's targeting the Democrats' most important constituency by offering a big carrot to some of their key spokespeople and mobilizers, and using that as a key wedge to get faith-based social assistance through. W. knows this will change a bunch of political dynamics around the welfare state as a whole. So do Democrats. But it just got harder for them to stop it.
- "For the good of families, children, and society, I support a constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage."
That's nice. I support someone giving me a billion dollars. How about just appointing justices at all levels who think original intent means something, and believe that engineering major social changes is the legislatures' proper role?
- "I will work with Congress to ensure that human embryos are not created for experimentation or grown for body parts, and that human life is never bought and sold as a commodity."
This is known as "defining the debate." It's only semi-relevant, just like the "lame will walk" stuff Edwards pulled. But because he has an absolute moral position and the Edwards counter-approach can be hamstrung by pointing to states and private investment, all W. has to do is keep repeating this refrain, and he wins.
- "Our aim is to build and preserve a community of free and independent nations, with governments that answer to their citizens, and reflect their own cultures."
In 20 years, the second half of that sentence is going to be seen as the most significant part of W.'s speech. If taken seriously and made part of The Bush Doctrine, it will change the conservative movement. It will also offer an attractive alternative to multiculturalism based on sharing cultural excellence, rather than quotas and phony echo-chamber spokespeople like Rigoberta Menchu. Finally, it will improve the way we talk about international development. This will take some time to push to fruition, as ideas re: a cross-cultural "Book of Virtues" and what healthy cultures look like at different stages of development begin to cohere. Fortunately, America itself is a living lab for the former, and the War on Terror gives the latter urgency.
- "The government of Saudi Arabia can demonstrate its leadership in the region by expanding the role of its people in determining their future. And the great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East."
I'd call that serving notice. Nicely, but consider it served. Served twice in Saudi Arabia, whose many Shi'a must have found the recent outbreak of Democratic Shi'a Power in Iraq quite fascinating.
- "Syria still allows its territory, and parts of Lebanon, to be used by terrorists who seek to destroy every chance of peace in the region. You have passed, and we are applying, the Syrian Accountability Act -- and we expect the Syrian government to end all support for terror and open the door to freedom."
I'd call that serving notice. Nicely? No.
- "And to the Iranian people, I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you."
Nice. I noticed that W. directly addressed Syria's government, and Iran's people. If you're Iranian, take that as a compliment, it's a big one. Could W. finally be getting serious about a populist strategy to oust the mullahs, now that Iraq's elections have passed? I damn well hope so.
- So cool to see new Republican up-and-comer Bobby Jindal et. al. holding up the blue-inked fingers for the camera in a 'victory' sign. Guess he reads Andrew Sullivan, who looked good on CNN.
- The point of the Iraq section wasn't to reconnect Americans with the mission - it was to connect Americans at an emotional and values level with the Iraqi people. W. did, brilliantly. The regular joe/cowboy avatar knows that once you prove yourself to be a friend and stand up with 'em when the going gets tough, those key American archetypes consider it a point of honour to stick by you through anything. Any Jacksonian watching got that message, and there are a lot of 'em.
- Liked the smackdown of Senators Kennedy & Kerry too, with the direct shots at the idiocy of timetables for withdrawal and the absolute determination that Iraqis fighting for real freedom will never be abandoned. As a bonus, Iraqis who would have missed the American cultural echoes had it spelled out in plain words.
- Unlike John Kerry, Democrat Senator Joe Biden seemed happy a lot. Wonder if he and W. have been speaking a lot lately, because I heard echoes of Biden's ideas in this speech. Pity W. didn't step up with Biden's idea to fund girls' education across the Muslim World, I thought that one was especially good.
- Still, did anyone else notice that when W. talked about freedom in Muslim countries, W. made a point of displaying non-hijab clad women from Afghanistan & Iraq? Anyone out there think that was a coincidence? Bueller? Anyone?
- Related thought: is it ever gonna be fun watching the reactions (plural) in Africa & the Middle East to a powerful, smart, forthright black woman as U.S. Secretary of State. Dr. Condoleeza Rice, 3rd World feminist icon? If they're smart and she can pass the tests of the public spotlight, yes.
Got a call from an American friend just before it was finished, who asked if "the nattering a--hole was done yet." Curtly asked to be called back when it was over, and hung up. Leaving aside the fact that this happened just after the Norwoods, this is the formal State of the Union address from the President of the United States of America. It represents your country, ALL of it, and the traditions and institutions that make it free. I don't give a good goddamn if it's President-elect Dennis Kucinich up there, the event and the office would still deserve respect. President Truman made this kind of point a few times in the book Plain Speaking. He was right. He still is.
We have a lot of morons up here too, but even the Throne Speeches from Jean Chretien read by our egomaniac Governor-General deserved respect as the Official Throne Speech of Her Majesty's Canadian Government. They're a symbol of the institutions and traditions that make us a somewhat free country - and could make us a freer and better one, if we let them.
...And that's all I have to say about that.