Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Musings on the SotU

I forced myself to watch the president's State of the Union address last night, as I generally do every year even when I don't want to. This was one of those years. But, I thought the speech was basically conventional, without anything particularly striking about it at all.

- Bush's continued the same lame defenses of his end-run around FISA that we've been hearing for weeks ("It remains essential to the security of America. If there are people inside our country who are talking with Al Qaida, we want to know about it, because we will not sit back and wait to be hit again."), still refusing to answer the very basic question of what made it impossible to work within the FISA framework and get the 72-hour retroactive permission if necessary.

- I applaud the president's recognition that "here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world." And the additional funding he says he'll seek for new research would certainly be useful. However, we must take immediate steps to reduce consumption, and that means increasing fuel economy standards and enforcing speed limits in the short-run. It's true, we must fund ways to move beyond petroleum, but that's not going to happen overnight (and given this president's track record on following through with pledges for research funding, it's not going to happen anytime soon).

- One of my favorite moments, when I actually laughed, came when Bush was discussing Social Security reform, and said "Congress did not act last year on my proposal to save Social Security...", at which point the Democrats gleefully jumped to their feet and applauded fiercely. Amusingly done. Of course the future of Social Security is a serious problem, and it will be interesting to see which members of Congress are chosen to sit on the announced "commission" to study it and make proposals. I've thought for a long time that a bipartisan panel was probably the only way anything was going to get done in this area, so hopefully they'll come up with something useful.

- Another favorite moment: Bush mentioned "earmark reform" favorably, and almost no one in the chamber clapped. Except for John McCain, on whom the camera focused briefly as he smiled and applauded all alone. Earmark reform certainly is going to be a tough fight, there's no doubt about that.

So all in all, a forgettable speech - not awful, not great. Will it propel Bush's poll numbers any higher? Doesn't seem all that likely.

Joe Gandelman at TMV has a great post of analysis and reaction from across the blogosphere, which you shouldn't miss. The Bull Moose's take is also up.

3 Comments:

At 10:24 AM, Blogger The Cynical Liberal said...

Something he said struck me, and I'm curious about your thoughts...

I have not heard anything about a movement to bring back the line-item veto until last night when Bush mentioned it. Is this something that he just wants done, or is this something that Congress is actually considering?

Do you think it would be a good idea for Dubya to have the red-pen?

 
At 10:55 AM, Blogger JBD said...

Mmm, line-item veto. I mentioned it back in August as one of the ways to combat porking, and I still think it's a good idea in principle. The problem is, the Court struck it down pretty mightily in Clinton v. City of NY about ten years ago, and I'm not sure there's a way to get it drafted so it'll pass muster with the Supremes.

While the line-item veto gets mentioned constantly in state of the union speeches (Chester Arthur even wanted it!), it is not being seriously considered in Congress so far as I know (mainly because nobody's figured out how to get around the Court yet, I suspect). Like I said, in principle it's a very good idea, but in practice, who knows. I think there's a great deal of potential for mischief-making (striking out all the opposition party's pork, for example, but leaving the rest) which is worrisome.

Also, this president has never, not once, met a bloated spending bill he didn't sign, which says to me loud and clear that he doesn't give a hoot about pork, earmarking, or all the rest. If he wanted to stop the gravy train he should have stepped up five years ago and started vetoing the spending bills that were chock full of special projects. It's too late for him to start that now, so we've got to wait for the next president and hope he (or she?) has more backbone to use the veto pen when necessary. Earmarking reform at this point would be much more effective than the line-item veto, and is a fight all of us sensible folks ought to join together on.

 
At 11:29 AM, Blogger The Cynical Liberal said...

I agree that earmarking reform would be better. That would be a much better way of preventing a problem, as opposed to a line-item veto which would just be a way to combat it after the fact.

I agree also about Dubya's appetite for spending. Or rather, his lack of oversight (since he's not the one passing it, he's just not vetoing it). I'm more concerned that the line-item veto would be used to X out anything ever done by the Democrats ever. It would give the President a vessel to embarrass the Democrats on a regular basis.

 

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