State of the Union 2006

Here’s the blow-by-blow of tonight’s festivities, when the oil president will talk about the nation’s addiction to oil—we’ll see if there is anything of substance to back those words. We need more than ethanol incentives. Extending the hybrid tax credit would be okay, but we really need to make this a hydrogen economy (figuring out, first, how to make hydrogen with less energy than it produces).

The rumor that Cindy Sheehan has been arrested before doing anything is rather troubling. Used to be it was necessary to do something illegal before the cuffs went on. UPDATE: Sheehan is reported to have “unfolded a banner” in the House Gallery, which is prohibited.

Sam Alito looks almost dazed by the clamor in the House chamber. It’s actually rather charming.

Here he is, Mr. President. The low-expectation setting by CNN’s commentators, combined with assurances the President is a “nice guy” is appalling. Just report the news, don’t do the spinning for Karl Rove. He’s paid for it, so let him do it. Opening ovation: About 35 seconds.

Nice that he starts with Coretta Scott King, who passed away today. Begins with our gathering for mourning and a lot of past tense language. He appeals for civility and good will and respect, but he hasn’t done his part. The Great Divider speaketh and his words pass away, as he goes right on to accuse people who disagree with him as believing his pursuit of “freedom” is “misguided optimism.”

I’m glad he’s talking about isolationism, but trade and opportunity must be combined with deep investment in public education to make the gains democratic.

The advance of freedom…. unfortunately, most of those democracies showed their faces in the 20th century, not this century. The process of bringing freedom in Bush’s plan has alienated people around the world from the United States. Hey, I agree about radical Islam—bad, but the idea that bin Laden is tempted to “seize power in Iraq” is silly. We do love our freedom, we will fight to keep it…. but we’re fighting to impose “our freedom” on others so that bad people don’t come to our shores. Doesn’t play well overseas.

Battlefield to our shores: We needn’t retreat from the world and no one is calling for that. But folks would like to have gone to war for a legitimate reason. He’s tying isolationism to the anti-war movement. That’s an illegitimate approach to the legitimate difference of opinion. There’s no one asking for all troops to come home from everywhere; we’re asking for a rational plan for getting out, diplomacy to bring more countries to help Iraq.

Not a lot of clapping going on.

The dramatic progress of a new democracy: Iraq’s accelerated path from Saddam to today has killed hundreds of thousands, alienating Iraqis and the Middle East from Americans. He mentions the “plan for victory,” but what is it?

Refers to responsible criticism and defeatism. What? Second-guessing? How about “learning from our mistakes”?

Does anyone really think that Iraq would welcome bin Laden? We should support our military by using their lives responsibly. The sacrifices of the fighting men and women does not purchase excuses for a badly managed presidency.

The soldier’s family looks proud, but a little confused. There is a shot of Bush, who seems to be jealous of the long applause for someone else. He shrugs and winks at someone. Agreed, we should never forget the sacrifices of the military families, but asking if the sacrifices are made wisely by this President is also what these men and women fought for. We’re not second guessing you, Mr. President. We’re asking you be open and debate the war, your reasons for taking us to war, so that we can learn together how to get out of the war with the success we all want.

We’re almost a half-hour into the speech and it’s still war and the Middle East. I agree that liberty is the right and hope of all humanity. Why are civil liberties at home being sacrificed, Mr. President. The Iranian passage sounds like pre-war Saddam rhetoric, right down to speaking to the citizens of Iran, as he did the people of Iraq before the invasion.

Again, isolationism? The Republicans have been behind the calls for getting disentangled every time the U.S. got involved with Africa for the past three decades…. The AIDS and malaria battles have been declared and underfunded by government. Private funding has done amazing things.

Patriot Act: Ah, there we are. That’s the civil liberties we are protecting. Goes on to suggest that the FISA courts prevented the intelligence community from spotting the 9/11 hijackers. He says previous presidents have done the same and courts backed them — not true, this question has not been addressed by the courts in favor of Bush’s position.

More isolationism accusations? We’re in a “long war” that will be “fought by presidents of both parties.” Thank you, but I’d like future presidents to fight for liberty by protecting civil rights.

35 minutes in we get to domestic policy. We hear the usual litany of the good things in the economy, but the economic gains have not been shared by all, only by Bush’s top one percent. As he cites China and India, says we’re going to become protectionist, that power will be centralized in Washington (as though it hasn’t been dramatically since 2000?). Economic retreat toward a stagnant economy….

What’s the plan?

The first step is more tax cuts? How do we finance more education, better schools? How about continuing education? Oh, no! If we don’t keep the tax cuts in place for those top earners who don’t expect to pay more, even though the returns on American investment have increasingly gone into their pocket. More cuts? If we cut education anymore, there won’t be a public school system. What’s the plan for being competitive?

Here comes the Social Security harangue…. What if, instead, we invest in new educational opportunity to increase economic growth? How is it that the President always paints the economic upside of his deficit-ballooning tax cuts while refusing to acknowledge that more investment in Americans’ intelligence and opportunity would secure Social Security, which is the bedrock of our economic existence—what would older people do if they had nothing to live on?

He says no one can outproduce and outcompete the American worker. Yes, that’s true if the country invests in them, if, like a great coach, the President encourages learning and risk-taking not by investors but by individual workers. How about universal healthcare so that job mobility was easier? He says competitiveness depends on affordable healthcare, but only for the poor and elderly (with lots of loopholes), while using healthcare costs to lock people into jobs that don’t offer them a future. Portable coverage is not the answer, because sometimes there are times that the next job isn’t on the horizon.

It would be good to believe he really wants to help small business get insurance, but in five years there’s been no progress there. (I know, I’ve been a small business person the whole time).

47 minutes in: Energy. We’re on the threshhold of incredible advances. Twenty-two percent for the DOE to push “clean coal”, solar and “clean, safe nuclear.” Increased research for batteries and hydrogen. Ethanol that can be practical and competitive in six years. BTW, 2005 DOE research spending was flat at $2.5 billion, so this is just a catch-up spending plan. A 22% increase appears to be about $550 million.

Double basic research over ten years? Let’s do make the R&D tax credit permanent. But let’s also give any kid who goes into research a free education. Talking No Child Left Behind now, but the gains are illusory. How about paying teachers to do a good job, not just more teachers?

Our greatness is in how we treat one another…. hence all the divisiveness. Ah, we are in a revolution of conscience. Apparently, before conservatives came along we weren’t aware of the need for personal responsibility. Our culture is apparently in trouble because of crooked pols, activist judges and so forth. Says we shouldn’t believe America is in decline, but he just listed all the threats that are dragging it down? Oh, well, Justices Roberts and Alito will fix all that….

After all the advances talk, there is a moderated stem cell research agenda. If I heard right, he didn’t say no stem cell research, only no cloning, no patenting of embryos…. Is there movement there?

If he wants to show responsibility in government, how about releasing the Katrina documents, information about White House staff contact with Jack Abramoff and generally being more open to public scrutiny? There are so many secrets these days that almost nothing can be discussed. How about some sunshine laws?

We’re rebuilding the Gulf Coast, talking commitments of money, not all of which appears to be available after all. Can’t say for sure, because not all White House documents are accessible. Takes a poorly turned line that echoes Martin Luther King, then we veer back to HIV and blacks. This is pandering and kind of rude, because AIDS isn’t a black problem, it’s a human problem.

Lincoln? MLK? Bush? There’s a list for you. Will we finish well? How about finishing this presidency and getting past the decline in civil liberties, the widening income and wealth gaps, the clouds of secrecy clearing. He smiles as he finished like “Yeah, I gave a speech.” Less than hour.

CNN goes right into “the president playing to his strengths” when 60 percent of Americans are sick of his war-mongering. They go on to say “the Democrats haven’t given the country a unified voice” because that’s “honest” to point out—so, they credit Bush and discredit his opposition. That’s balance?

Bush signs lots of autographs on the way out. Tacky. The speech doesn’t provide any details to relieve anyone concerned about the state of the nation. It was war, war, terror, terror for two-thirds of the time, then a slice of domestic pabulum.

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Author: Mitch Ratcliffe

Mitch Ratcliffe is a veteran entrepreneur, journalist and business model hacker. He operates this site, which is a collection of the blogs he's published over the years, as well as an archive of his professional publishing record. As always, this is a work in progress. Such is life.

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