One can only imagine what must have been going through President George W. Bush’s mind as he walked into the House Chamber to deliver the State of the Union address to the nation.
Certainly within the crashing waves of applause from the joint session of the Congress, the president must have been about the Democrat majority in Congress, the unpopularity of the Iraq war, and the fear of being powerless politically that accompanies the lame duck status, among other things. The State of the Union address is a ceremonial practice, almost falling into the category of theater, where the president delivers his monologue, promising to carry out actions toward achieving goals that would strengthen the condition of the country.
It would not be wrong to think that Bush’s speech has experienced d√©j√† vu, one has heard the speech before. Illinois Senator Barack Obama, the man who wishes to take President Bush’s job in 2008, had a similar reaction to the speech.
According to his rebuttal statement on MSNBC.com, Obama said, “The president offered some serious proposals tonight on two issues – energy and health care – that we all agree must be addressed.” He further adds, “But the last election proved that politics-by-slogan and poll-tested sound bites aren’t going to cut it with the American people any more, and that’s why the real test of leadership is not what the president said to Congress tonight, but how he works with Congress to find real solutions to the problems we face.”
To be fair and balanced, borrowing the slogan of the ‘snare and unbalanced’ Fox News for a moment, the president appeared to be appealing to both parties in Congress. The speech was intentionally bipartisan . Of course carefully constructed to cater to both parties in a Congress that has majority of Democrats, the speech was not alienating the Democrats and instead called on both parties to join together to face the issues that lay before the country. The president made this point clear earlier on the speech when he said, “We’re not the first to come here with a government divided and uncertainty in the air. Like many before us, we can work through our differences, and achieve big things for the American people. Our citizens don’t much care which side of the aisle we sit on-as long as we’re willing to cross that aisle when there is work to be done.” This approach to politics in a crucial period in American history is admirable, but his carrying out his promised actions is another story.
An example of this bipartisan approach would be when the president carefully touched upon the immigration problem which is one of the foremost issues that has split the country on ideological lines. Bush acknowledged that the lawmakers before him had strong opinions about the issue but in order to resolve it, they must have a civil debate and come up with a reasonable immigration reform that can be passed into law.
Bush dedicated the last half of his speech to foreign affairs. It had the same constant drone as other speeches on the matter but it had to be reiterated to show where he stood. The president believes that the withdrawal of troops from Iraq would produce devastating consequences. However, he did not address that in a truthful in a sense. Also, paradoxically, the opposite can have the same consequences.
What was strange about the speech was that the president mentioned Afghanistan in only one sentence while there are well-established fears that the Taliban is getting stronger and coming back by showing significant activity.
On other foreign matters, it was refreshing to hear that the president was concerned about the health issues in Africa and how America should aid in solving those issues. The president was concerned about HIV/AIDS in Africa and that it should still be fought against. President Bush also called for sending $1.2 billion over the next five years to fifteen African nations in order to combat malaria there.
Overall, the speech seemed to be composed of the same rhetoric and slogans of the past. It seems that the president will not easily accept being a lame duck that has lost his political influence upon a Congress whose majority is now the members of the opposite party. Only later on this year will we truly find out.