State of the Union: Reality Disconnect
Fred Kaplan of Slate puts the spotlight on part of the problem with Bush's last State of the Union speech:
The sad thing about President George W. Bush's final State of the Union address is that he seems to have learned so little about the crises in which he's immersed his nation so deeply.I listened to Andy Card last night on MSNBC make a pretentious and self-righteous defense of Bush as some kind of idealist. Yeah. Sure. Bush gave us a costly war we didn't need. Wealthy people count on Bush to make them richer without having to work for it. Privatization contracts go to his cronies. Conservative compassion is offered but turns out to be a con to entice the religious right. And our economy is in trouble because deregulation has gone stark raving mad to the point that bankers and investment houses are so uncontrolled that midlevel people are stealing companies blind, sometimes their own and sometimes others, with phony derivatives and shabby unsecured loans while essentially defrauding thousands of homeowners (let's not pretend too hard that high level executives didn't know what was going on as they dig for the $100 million bonuses so freely handed out; it's Enron all over again). There's an effort out there, by the way, to blame homeowners for their bad business judgment but did anyone really expect real estate prices to drop 25% or more in some areas? The real estate bubble was insane and yet an idiot (we know he's an idiot now and not a guru) like Alan Greenspan was unconcerned. Bernake was asleep at the wheel. And Bush? When has he made himself useful in the last seven years?
Maybe the president believes that saying something makes it close to true. (Some of his former aides have told me they suspect this is the case.) For instance, toward the end of the address, he said that protecting the nation's security "requires changing the conditions that breed resentment and allow extremists to prey on despair. So America is using its influence to build a freer, more hopeful, and more compassionate world." The first sentence is true, the second encouraging. What's his follow-up—what are some examples of America using its influence to this end? "America is opposing genocide in Sudan," he said. (That's nice. What are we doing?) ....
America is weaker today than we were seven years ago. I don't like saying that but it's the truth. We need new sources of energy. We cannot hand the problems of global warming to future generations when the best solutions, the cheapest solutions, exist now. We cannot act like the bully of the world and expect people to take us seriously when we talk about democracy and human rights. We need to create jobs and we need incentives for American companies that create jobs at home. We do not need to make corporations more powerful and more arrogant than they already are. The problems go on because our country has spent more than a generation believing Republican happy talk that our only problem is high taxes, communists, and now in this era, 'Islamofascists.' Outright gibberish does not lead to greatness.
In the coming decade, confronting the world as it really is, without the fantasies, but with a much healthier respect for what individual Americans can do together, is the only way we're going to move forward. That may sound like a campaign slogan but it was the philosophy that guided our country most of the time in its first two hundred years. It wasn't a perfect philosophy and it wasn't perfectly executed, but it gave us a great deal more year after year than anything Bush and his cronies have done.
Campaign Note: I still plan on voting for John Edwards. Maybe he'll be the broker at the convention that makes sure we'll see real change if a Democrat is elected. I still plan on supporting any Democratic nominee. Here's the order of my preferences:
1. John Edwards
2. Barack Obama
3. Christopher Dowd
4. Hillary Clinton
Yeah, I know, Dodd's out of the race. But he's still my third choice. If Hillary wins, I'll support her, but she and Bill will need to mend some fences and prove to us that they're not still the candidates of the 1990s. We are very much in a different era now. If by chance a Republican gets elected president, hunker down. It's going to be a very rough ride.