Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Claim Versus Fact
I stuck to my resolution and didn't watch the State of the Union speech, but I read the transcript--even the parts between the lines.

"For diplomacy to be effective, words must be credible, and no one can now doubt the word of America." (Except when my lips are moving.)

"America is a nation with a mission--and that mission comes from our most basic beliefs. We have no desire to dominate, no ambitions of empire. (If I was trying to be an emperor, I'd have to wear one of those funny Roman hats, and Dick says I don't have to.) Our aim is a democratic peace--a peace founded upon the dignity and rights of every man and woman. (Except for ragheads who don't love Jesus.) America acts in this cause with friends and allies at our side, yet we understand our special calling: This great Republic will lead the cause of freedom." (All you other countries, we will tell you what to do and when to do it, so wait quietly for your instructions, and don't get uppity or we can bomb you too.)

"[J]obs are on the rise." (Sure, we lost 2.5 million in the last two years and it could have been three, but we gained a whole thousand of them last month alone! Whoo-hoo!)

"And we should limit the burden of government on this economy by acting as good stewards of taxpayer dollars." (Blogger snorts milk out through nose.)

"By computerizing health records, we can avoid dangerous medical mistakes, reduce costs, and improve care." (And it will make it a lot easier for Homeland Security to add the records to the Big Database of Potential Evildoers.)

"So tonight I propose an additional $23 million for schools that want to use drug testing as a tool to save children's lives. The aim here is not to punish children, but to send them this message: We love you, and we don't want to lose you." (And because we love you, we're going to assume you're a drug abuser until you prove otherwise by surrendering your dignity and peeing in a cup.)

"So tonight I call on team owners, union representatives, coaches and players to take the lead, to send the right signal, to get tough and to get rid of steroids now." (Do you like the way I threw this in so I would get my face on Sportscenter? I wanted to say something about Spongebob Squarepants so I could get on Nickelodeon, too, but Dick says that's a cartoon, so I couldn't.)

"The momentum of freedom in our world is unmistakable--and it is not carried forward by our power alone. We can trust in that greater power Who guides the unfolding of the years. And in all that is to come, we can know that His purposes are just and true." (I am taking my instructions from God, so whatever I do can't be wrong, and anybody who thinks otherwise is with the terrorists.)

One of the things I missed by reading the speech instead of watching it, says TV critic Tom Shales in the Washington Post, was Bush's demeanor: "[T]he words of the speech were written to sound lofty, but Bush had such a big Christmas-morning grin on his face that they came out sounding like taunts--taunts to the rest of the world or taunts to Democrats in the hall." We all know that smirk--the smirk of playground bullies everywhere, the smirk of a person who knows it's not what you know but who you know (and scorns you because you don't know who he knows). You'd think Karl Rove would work on that with Bush--but maybe they just don't care.

My usual blogosphere stops are light on speech analysis--everybody's in New Hampshire mode, which wasn't what Rove imagined when he scheduled the speech for the day after Iowa. There is some to be found, however: Gary Kamiya in Salon--"[T]here was no real story line in Bush's address beyond 'cut taxes' and 'kill evildoers,' and his delivery was not inspiring." Liberal Oasis--"The lack of substance has to make you wonder if the Bushies have anything left for a final act, anything to build a engaging second-term vision. In fact, there was so little to chew on in the speech, NBC spent most of its post-SOTU wrap-up talking about the Dem primary." And the Center for American Progress has its usual devastating Claim vs. Fact analysis to render Bush's entire text a smoking ruin.

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