can’t see the forest

A Guided Tour of the Rhetorical Wasteland of 2007’s State of the Union

Last Monday night, the President of the United States of America quacked out an entirely forgettable State of the Union address. I call it ‘enitrely forgettable’ because I entirely forgot about it, but, thanks to the magic of the White House Web, I was able to read the speech later at my own pace, with ample bathroom breaks, afforded the opportunity to scream in horror without missing any valuable words of wisdom, and with the added ability to cut-‘n’-paste, to boot.

Sure, I’m a few days behind—my schedule in recent weeks has been more terse than normal, what with full-time schooling and the occasional rock-and-roll gig in a distant college town, and my blogging has suffered for it—but I wanted to take a few moments to offer some commentary on the apparent progress of W’s Messianic Mission in the Middle East and on his assessment of domestic issues in the US.

Americans beforehand were told that the SotU address would focus on ‘domestic issues.’ The President did pay noncommital lip service to a number of the social issues which helped his party to find itself booted out of the legislative cockpit, much of which I found to be the usual hypocritical, underenthused drivel. However, towards the end of the address, Bush drifted into a rousing finale in which he attempted to reunite the ‘divided government’ with more of his tired, sophomoric, blatantly bellicose picture-painting of a world cleanly split on principle between the goodly, chivalrous, Christian-Right Americanites and. . .everyone else.

SotU 2007The address began with perfunctory congratulations to Pelosi and the Democrats—then it was time to get down to the business of placing all possible responsibility for our mistakes squarely on their shoulders.

The President outlined three economic reforms which, he said, ought to be of primary concern to Congress. First, of course, was the ubiquitous balancing of the federal budget. Bush feels confident, he said, that this can be done without raising taxes. All that is needed is a little ‘discipline in spending;’ and yet Bush had no words of rebuke to the Pentagon, whose spending budget dwarfs the defense budgets of the rest of the world’s nations combined. Yes, the Pentagon seems to magically escape scrutiny whenever ‘discipline’ is roused from sleepy-time. Furthermore, the President did not address what experience tells me is almost certainly a key ingredient of his budget-trimming proposals: decreased social spending for those who need it most, such as underpriveleged children and disenfranchised war veterans. This is surely what Bush means by ‘discipline’—the discipline of the poor, not of the egregiously wealthy.

Next, the President blasted special interest ‘earmarking’ of bills. “You didn’t vote them into law, I didn’t sign them into law. Yet they’re treated as if they have the force of law. The time has come to end this practice.” Not a word was spoken about the President’s voracious addiction to executive ‘signing statements,’ which he has repeatedly used to adjust legislation to his liking, all strictly off-the-radar.

Finally, Bush admonished Congress to get serious about what he called ‘entitlements’ such as Social Security and Medicare programs. There were no specific points to discuss, just a good whip crack to get those engines of privatization rolling.

There was a lot of fanfare over nominal initiatives to ease the cumbersome costs of health care in the United States—this, of course, was accompanied by a vapid absence of any suggestion of the incongruity of a lack of systematic public healthcare in the world’s most prosperous nation. No mention was made that the glaring problems the President tiptoed around have long been non-issues in less robust nations such as Canada, the UK, and France. What could be more simple: if you’re not able to afford your prescriptions, America, it’s because you’re not saving enough money!

Bush paid tribute to a nation increasingly uneasy with energy worries, yet failed to congratulate the Iraqi Parliament’s bill to divert massive oil revenues to Western energy companies. He called for decreased consumption of gasoline without amply emphasizing the personal responsibility of consumers. His message was clear: take it to the pointy heads, and enjoy your road trip to the Grand Canyon. Take lots of pictures. “The way forward is through technology,” Bush said. Buying a bicycle couldn’t possibly have anything to do with it.

The rest of the address was devoted to explaining the need for continued bloodshed and destruction in Baghdad, and in setting the stage for conflict with Iran, obviously the source of all things evil in the world. A progress report on Afghanistan was conspicuously missing. Part of the reason America needs to get serious about energy diversimifacationism, Bush insisted, is that Teheran’s legions of hateful anti-baseball terrorists could interrupt those rivers of oil at any moment, on the merest whim.

I found the most terrifyingly Orwellian prose in the speech right here:

This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we’re in. Every one of us wishes this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned, and our own security at risk. (Applause.) Ladies and gentlemen: On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. Let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory. (Applause.)

I can’t help but wonder what any number of war-battered Iraqi schoolchildren might have to say about that.


2 Responses

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  1. naj said, on 1/29/07 at 2:21 pm

    Do Iraqis send their children to school too?

  2. Curtis said, on 2/7/07 at 6:02 am

    :-) They try. I believe they try.

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