Click here for video and transcript of last night's speech courtesy of C-Span.
So last night at around 9pm I plopped down on my couch with remote in hand and switched it to any network loosely affiliated with the news. I was curious to see how a new speechwriter and an all too apparent loss of popularity would affect the typically all-too-predictable Bush State of the Union rhetoric.
What I witnessed was a more somber Bush for sure, quite possibly aware that his words would not garner much applause. Perhaps he feared the majority of Democrats before him, or was worried that his segments regarding immigration would get him a few boo's from within his own party, or maybe he simply felt uncomfortable about being framed by a woman (Nancy Pelosi, first female Speaker of the House). Whatever the case, the approx 49 minute speech gave the American people little new to chew on.
The all too familiar statements regarding the War on Terror were there, though they felt a bit later than usual. The same "We cannot lose in Iraq" mentality that we've all come to know and love/hate. Earlier on, however, we got a piece of presidential humor:
"Next, there is the matter of earmarks. These special interest items are often slipped into bills at the last hour -- when not even C-SPAN is watching."
I've yet to run into anyone who thinks earmarks are a good thing. It was nice to hear mention of a specific reform that may actually be within this administrations grasp. Hopefully we'll see some action taken on this one. Other bits I actually liked included the energy reform blurbs, one of which also felt specific:
"Tonight, I ask Congress to join me in pursuing a great goal. Let us build on the work we've done and reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next 10 years."
Normally I'd be skeptical, but with the Democrats (being traditionally the more environmentally sound party) in Congress, I suppose anything is possible. Then again, it's not the first time we've heard Bush talk about energy efficiency, and little within the public sector has really affected the private movement towards energy efficient vehicles. Time will tell.
Aside from that it was certainly nice to see the president reaffirm his immigration beliefs and make a statement I absolutely agree with:
"Yet even with all these steps, we cannot fully secure the border unless we take pressure off the border -- and that requires a temporary worker program."
Securing the border without reforming our current legal immigration system would be xenophobic and historically backwards in terms of American principles. I'm glad to see Bush go so blatantly against more socially conservative members of his party on this one.
My only truly major and unexpected disappointment was the unfortunate glossing over of Darfur. It got a grand totally of 2-3 seconds of airtime. It may be true that Bush has been one of the most proactive world leaders regarding Darfur, but there's so much more he could be doing, starting with raising public awareness. He should've used this opportunity to reaffirm to the American people the true nature of the conflict and the horrors of life in the Sudan.
With that, I leave you with Jim Webb's well articulated Democratic rebuttal. I found it to be world's better than any I've seen out of the Democratic party over the past six years.