MartiniPundit

Random thoughts and insights – always shaken, never stirred

Thoughts on the State of the Union Address

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President Bush’s fifth State of the Union Address was longer than I might have expected, taking nearly an hour. It had the usual laundry list of issues and proposals, though not nearly as much as I remember President Clinton would always lard his SOTUs. The mispronunciation of nuclear as ‘nucular’ which annoys Lefties so much was on display, and there was some political theater. The Iraqi woman voter whose father had been murdered by Saddam hugging the mother of a fallen Marine was schmaltzy but touching and the ink-stained fingers showing the solidarity of one of the oldest democracies with the newest was a powerful symbol. There were nods to the FMA, stem cells, AIDS, and immigration. I’m not sure how one will manage a tight border in conjunction with a liberal guest worker program, but the border is far too porous and the need for migrant workers is all too real.

However, in reality, there were two main themes to the address: Social Security and Terrorism. The talking heads and the Democrats are presently engaged in a game of semantics over whether the Social Security system is in crisis, in trouble, or sound as granny’s piggy bank. My personal view for some time is that it’s nothing more than a giant Ponzi scheme (the only one that’s legal) and I’m unikely to see a dime of the money I’ve paid into the system. It’s another tax and a pretty regressive one at that. I’d welcome the opportunity to take control of that money or a portion of it but the details are still too sketchy to know just what we’re talking about. The President laid out the case for reform, and that seems to me the right approach. Until people are convinced that there is a need for radical reform, nothing will happen, and the President needs to do as much convincing among the Republicans as he does the Democrats. He may be the only President in our lifetime who can dare touch the ‘third rail of politics’ as his political career is over in four years and he need not worry about Cheney. One thing I didn’t know is that Federal workers already have some form of this – the Thrift Savings Plan – which appears to be similar to a 401k but may serve as a blueprint for reform. We’ll see.

From my point of view, this was the key passage:

To promote peace in the broader Middle East, we must confront regimes that continue to harbor terrorists and pursue weapons of mass murder. 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.

Today, Iran remains the world’s primary state sponsor of terror — pursuing nuclear weapons while depriving its people of the freedom they seek and deserve. We are working with European allies to make clear to the Iranian regime that it must give up its uranium enrichment program and any plutonium reprocessing, and end its support for terror. And to the Iranian people, I say tonight: As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you. 

Extending the logic of the Inaugural Address, Bush has fingered the next two targets. They are no surprise, of course, but the Assad regime and the mad mullahs in Tehran have been told by a fine poker player to put up or shut up. The irony is that we probably don’t need to even invade to push Iran into the democracy column. The Special Forces incursion that so frightened Seymour Hersh is probably real, and like Afghanistan, most of what will be needed. Supporting the democracy movement in Iran that already exists will achieve most of our strategic goals for that country – freedom, no nukes, no sponsor of terror.

As to Syria, something tells me that Assad will be pulling a Quadafi before long. It can’t have escaped the notice of the Syrians that the Iraqis among them were voting last Sunday. A couple of observations on the floor: Kerry was there but no sign of Ted Kennedy. Dennis Kucinich fluttered a few feet from the President as Barack Obama handed Bush something for his autograph, and Sheila Jackson Lee and Bush shared a humorous moment which makes one wonder what ever that could have been.

The Democratic response was silly as always. I don’t quite see the point of opposition response – not now and not when the Republicans were in the minority. It’s not like one ever hears anything new in them – Reid said nothing substantive but promised to work with the President when they believe he’s on the right track. Good grief – pigs and cows will both fly before that happens. Meanwhile, Pelosi is just an embarrassment – she’s calling for broader participation in the Iraqi elections. Uh, 72%? Better than we do? But how sad that she’s parroting the line of the Sunnis who deliberately sat the election out and are now saying it’s illegitimate because it didn’t have enough Sunni participation. By aligning herself with that line of reasoning she undermines the Iraqi achievement and makes herself look like either a stooge of the anti-democratic forces or just plain foolish.

All in all, about as expected. Bush laid the necessary foundation for reform of Social Security but he must continue to use the bully pulpit to lead on the issue or it will never happen. And at least as importantly, he telegraphed a serious warning to Damascus and Tehran. Sometimes a shorter laundry list is best.

Update Wizbang has a roundup of reactions from the Blogosphere.

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Written by martinipundit

February 2, 2005 at 8:52 am

Posted in Politics

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