Some thoughts about a few of the things that have transpired since I last posted.
State of the Union: I thought the speech was fairly unimpressive; while I appreciate the president's calls for comprehensive immigration reform, health care coverage and a 20% reduction in gasoline consumption over the next ten years, the proof will most definitely be in the pudding. I'd like to think - as I have after each State of the Union address for the past seven years - that we will see evidence that the president really does want to work across the aisle and make progress on these important questions facing our nation. I'd like to think that the president will walk the walk instead of just talking the talk. But I cannot say my hopes are very high. Without strong efforts from both the White House and Congress (Democrats and Republicans), nothing will get done. I hope the commitment is there - on both sides - but I'll believe it when I see it.
Presidential Politics: Obama, Clinton, Richardson and Brownback have jumped into the race (joining Giuliani, McCain, Romney, Dodd, Biden, Hunter, Kucinich, and Paul - and I probably forgot some). Kerry has opted out (wisely, in my view; he's better off in the Senate). The 2008 race will almost without a doubt prove one of the most expensive, long and imporant races in recent memory. My position on the race evolves almost every day, but I remain most favorably inclined toward Senator Obama. Although I may not agree with him on every issue, I find his ideas about politics and hope the most appealing of the bunch. It makes me sad to find myself so far this year from Senator McCain, who I supported tooth and nail in 2000 and have the greatest respect for ... I'm just afraid that this is not his year. That may change (and probably will).
Politics of Iraq: As I type, I'm watching a C-SPAN re-air of the Senate Foreign Relation Committee's markup of the Biden/Hagel/Levin/Snowe resolution opposing the president's troop surge policy for Iraq. As the Washington Post notes, the "measure declares that increasing U.S. troop strength is not in America's national interest. It calls an open-ended commitment in Iraq 'unsustainable' and says Iraqi leaders and the United States should use political and diplomatic channels to end sectarian conflict and reduce regional interference in Iraqi affairs."
Senator Hagel made some of his strongest comments to date in support of the resolution (you can watch some of them here), saying to his colleagues "We better be damn sure we know what we’re doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder... look in that camera and tell your people back home what you think. Don't hide anymore. ... I think all 100 senators ought to be on the line on this. What do you believe? What are you willing to support? What do you think? Why were you elected? If you wanted a safe job, go sell shoes."
While I support the resolution under debate today - which passed the committee 12-9, I hope that its backers will work with those other senators who are thinking seriously about this issue (including Warner, Collins, Coleman, and Nelson, who have offered another resolution; and Lugar, Voinovich, and others who have expressed grave concerns about the plan) to reach wider agreement on a strong but effective resolution in order to send the strongest possible bipartisan message. Beyond this nonbinding resolution I believe (as Senator Lugar said very well today) that Congress must begin taking binding steps that cannot be ignored by the Administration (as they're promised this one will be) and exert its oversight power to a much more significant degree.