Bush's final State of the Union address last night was pretty sad--except for the fact that it was Bush's final State of the Union address. The speech itself was largely a litany of failure. He talked about the economic slowdown, and basically said "My tax cuts for the wealthy have not helped middle class or poor families or prevented a recession. But they've helped the rich get richer, so let's make them permanent."
Without mentioning the fact that when he took office, we had a balanced budget and a surplus, he said,
"Next week, I'll send you a budget that terminates or substantially reduces 151 wasteful or bloated programs, totaling more than $18 billion. The budget that I'll submit will keep America on track for a surplus in 2012.
"American families have to balance their budgets; so should their government."
In other words, "by 2012, through making deep cuts in essential spending, we might be able to get back to where we were when I started wasting our national treasure."
He talked about earmark reform, not that his party no longer controls Congress and classic abusers like Duke Cunningham are in jail or retirement.
He talked about the need for better health insurance and lower health care costs, an issue he has done nothing to address.
He discussed the need to wean ourselves off of oil--pretty rich for an executive branch headed by two old oilmen who have done nothing toward that goal.
He mentioned the Gulf Coast, which he has not succeeded in rebuilding. He talked about immigration, which he has not been able to tackle in any meaningful way. He mentioned Iraq, which he broke but has not fixed, and dwelled on bringing home some troops (which was always part of the surge plan) without mentioning that the war is a long way from "won" and the next president can expect to inherit a mess of Bush's creation. He said we're beating al Qaeda in Iraq without pointing out that they weren't there until after his war, and said they're being denied safe haven in Iraq, without acknowledging that the real al Qaeda has all the safe haven it needs in Pakistan. His big successes were stopping two terrorist attacks (Los Angeles, and planes flown over from London) that experts agree were unlikely at best.
The low point in an already deflated speech came here:
"To protect America, we need to know who the terrorists are talking to, what they are saying and what they're planning.
"Last year, Congress passed legislation to help us do that.
"Unfortunately, Congress set the legislation to expire on February 1st. That means, if you don't act by Friday, our ability to track terrorist threats would be weakened and our citizens will be in greater danger.
"Congress must ensure the flow of vital intelligence is not disrupted. Congress must pass liability protection for companies believed to have assisted in the efforts to defend America. We've had ample time for debate. The time to act is now."
This is the most inane, indefensible argument I believe I've ever heard him make. And the construction of that one sentence: "Congress must pass liability protection for companies believed to have assisted in the efforts to defend America," is as mangled as any he's ever uttered. "Companies believed to have assisted in the efforts to defend America"? He knows if they did or didn't.
The point is this--he wants immunity from prosecution for telecoms that broke the law at his request. If he doesn't get that immunity, he'll veto the bill and end the program that he claims is protecting American lives. If American lives are really at stake, isn't that the most important thing? The only possible reading of this is that he knows if the telecoms wind up in court, they're going to point fingers at who asked them to break the law. That'll expose the fact that the administration knew it was acting illegally at the time. There's just no other interpretation. If we live in a nation of laws, then those laws must apply to the administration and the corporate world.
Back to the SOTU--the procession of failures continued for about 55 minutes. He tried to find success stories, but there weren't many. He's probably just as glad as I am that he's done with this--time to get out into the corporate world and start cashing on some of the favors he's granted.
And not a moment too soon...