January 29, 2008

At many other points over the past seven years, a strong rebuke was in order when in a major televised speech, Bush uttered phrases like “€œadvancing liberty,”€ “€œgiven the chance, all people will choose freedom and peace,”€ “€œarmies of compassion,”€ and “€œa freer, more hopeful, and compassionate world.”€ Such language once amounted to more than tripe and actually adumbrated the aggressive, incoherent, reckless foreign policy of the moment. Not last night. 

When these leitmotifs returned in the president’s final State of Union Address (along with some half-serious noises about his concern for human rights in Sudan, Burma, and Iran), they sounded flat, like rather lame recapitulations of old themes most everyone has grown tired of. Bush evangelist extraordinaire Michael Gerson, who left for the CFR in 2006, was a much more vivid speechwriter than this current group of hacks on the White House staff.

For now the mantra “€œthe surge is working”€ is used to preclude indefinitely the question “€œtoward what?”€ and the media and public have generally taken a respite from talking about the war. Similarly, the NIE has tabled any plans to bomb Iran, making Bush’s warnings directed this country seem toothless.

Much of the rest of Bush’s speech amounted to a “€œgreatest hits of the”€™00s”€ played on a broken-down jukebox: 20-second snippets from “€œNo Child Left Behind,”€ disingenuous promises for “€œa budget surplus by 2012!”€ and some easy applause lines praising the troops”€”with an array of plans to better socialize them with medical and education packages. (I of course support taking care of people who give up their most productive years to defend the homeland, but some things last night were getting excessive.)

Bush ended by awkwardly connecting the framers”€™ “€œWe the People…”€ with some notion of how this released our individual energies or some half-formed thought like that. (What!?! Wouldn”€™t Americans actually be more atomized and “€œindividual”€ in a non-Constitutional, non-national political structure? Was not “€œWe the People,”€ to the contrary, an attempt to capture American nationhood?).

Anyway, before these stirring remarks, we were reminded that, despite what we might have thought when we started that new business or invested in that new company, it’s actually “€œforeign labor”€ that “€œsupports our economy.”€ Oh yes, where would we be without illegal immigrants?”€”did we even have an economy before they came over for an extended visit?    

Bush also promised to “€œmodernize”€ the federally subsidized housing industry that created a housing bubble so that we can recover from the bursting of the housing bubble. And Baron Münchause lifted himself out a swamp by pulling on his own shirt collar…

The other big news was of course the “€œeconomic stimulus”€ bill. And unless Taki decides to offer me a generous new financial package, I think I”€™ll be eligible to get a little piece of that “€œrobust growth package”€ the president and Congress are so proud of: a $600 check should be arriving in the mail shortly. Others will be getting food stamps. American retailers will be pleased and some might actually pay off their credit card debts, but how any of this will result in greater capital investment and the creation of jobs and wealth is beyond me. I think I”€™ll use the 600 bucks to buy some gold. 


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