Tuesday, January 20, 2004

state of the union

thankfully, i have my arabic class tonight so i will not have to sit through the president's speech tonight. i hate the state of the union speech, moreso with our current president, but i really have never liked them. they are never much more than an evening of politically calculated posturing. true, virtually everything that a president ever utters is almost always politically calculated posturing, but with other utterances there is always the remote chance that he will say something real that is off the cuff or slips past his handlers. not with the SOTU. every word of that is carefully considered and vetted by panels of political advisors.

while there may be announcements of some new grandiose legislative proposal, expect as much follow-through as the increase in AIDS funding for africa bush announced in his last SOTU address. does anyone remember that now? it served its purpose last year, balancing the president's call to war in iraq with a humanitarian gesture towards the poorest continent. but while the president got his war, the funding he promised did not materialize in his subsequent budgets. remember that when you hear bush's latest proposals tonight.

as much as i can't stand all SOTU speeches, bush's two past addresses both stick out as particularly embarrassing for this country. first, there was the "axis of evil" speech, naming three countries who were not in an alliance together (that is what an "axis" normally means) and joining them together with a simplistic quasi-religious word like "evil." furthermore two of those countries (iran and iraq) not only were not allied with each other but happened to hate each other. that boneheaded pronouncement caused a major setback in the democracy movement in iran (as i have discussed here previously) and possibly caused north korea to accelerate it's nuclear program. when the worlds largest holder of nuclear weapons pronounces your regime to be "evil" and groups you in the same catagory with two countries who it has threatened to overthrow, you have a large incentive to get some nukes of your own, and quickly too. it was around the time of this axis of evil speech that bush crossed the line for me, from a leader who i just disagreed with on just about anything, to someone who was actually a national embarrassment

bush's second SOTU address is now famous for the niger uranium lie. but the speech also contains several other gems such as the claim that aluminum tubes found in iraq could only be used for it's nuclear program (1 week before the UN had concluded they had nothing to do with any nukes). plus the speech included several statements which implied an iraq-al qaeda alliance that almost certainly did not exist. last september the president himself admitted there was no evidence for such an alliance, if he said that 6 months earlier support for his invasion would have probably been in single-digits. but that's precisely why he didn't.

this year's SOTU kicks off an election year, which means it is sure to be filled with election-year goodies and back patting over our success in iraq. the capture of saddam will be touted. but the fact that the attacks on u.s. forces have not decline since the capture (as some predicted they would), will go unmentioned. i am really relieved that i have something else to do this evening so i will not have to sit through this year's portion of presidential tripe. i will read the speech tomorrow morning when the new york times reprints the full text. at least then i will miss the hollow ceremony and those manipulative shots of people in the audience designed to emphasize whatever point bush is trying to make.