President George W. Bush delivered a remarkably impressive State of the Union address today. On national security his presentation was forceful, confident and unapologetic. He rejected, once again calls to bring our troops home prematurely and abandon those with whom we have pledged our support to a tryannical regime run by adherents to the Islamo-fascist principles of Osama bin Laden. "There is not peace in retreat and there is no honor in retreat," Mr. Bush said.
He rejected isolationism and appealed to our sense of compassion around the world - from AIDS funding in Africa to a better life and fight against human trafficking.
And he steadfastly defended the neoconservative vision of a free and democratic world, calling upon the Palestinians, Saudi Arabians and Egyptian governments to move a step closer to democratic government. He called on Hamas to recognize Israel, disarm and work for a lasting peace settlement and Egypt to open itself up further for a viable opposition party to emerge. He condemend the Iranian government now led by a "clerical elite" for its defiance with respect to its pusuit for nuclear weapons and promised to rally the world against it.
That neoconservative strategy is not shared by The PoliticalHeretic, who to this day questions whether democratic regimes are more peaceful and prone to ally themselves with the United States. Hamas' victory in Palestine was achieved at the polls Mr. Bush cites as our means to bring peace and stability in the world and there is no reason to suggest better results should the Egyptians and Saudis get the same opportunity. Afghanistan was the exception Mr. Bush cited.
Absent too was the means of getting the Iranians and the North Koreans (who also have nuclear aspirations) into compliance.
Notwithstanding these objection, the president's delivery was superb. He appealed to basic American values that few in this country would object to. Liberty is a hope and a right which all do want to fight for. and he cast his vision for American faith into a biblical crusade worthy of support. Retreat from Iraq and we "allow the violent to inherit the earth." Retreat from Iraq and we abandon the Iraqis to a "heartless faith." There is "no honor in retreat."
The president also called for the reauthorization of the misnamed Patriot Act and the "Terrorist Surveillance Program." The latter program was cast in terms which few would like to object to but it can, if upheld by the Courts, grant law enforcement tools which can be used against non-terrorist war dissidents and others who object to a whole wide array of domestic programs proposed by this or future presisdents. In delivery it was superb. "We will not sit back and wait to be hit again."
Of course not, but there are other means to go about it - from closer scrutiny at the airports and seaports to Court and enhanced immigration control at our borders. To the extent that such wiretaps are needed, the president could always go to the FISA court.
Mr. Bush's delivery on the economic front was equally impressive. Unlike his predecessor, the president did not cite a litany of interest group agenda items. He wound them into a coherent whole for delivering on America's promise to be a "compassionate" nation that does not abandon those within its midst to economic despair. The agenda items included some traditional Republican items like the the tax cuts which he would like to make permanent and global trade. Building upon his "No Child Left Behind" Act, the president said he will spend money for teacher training on advanced placement math and science courses and touted the First Lady's "American Youth Initiative" encouraged to get encourage students to stay in school."
Less impressive was the means to pay for his agenda. Mr. Bush set aside for a commission any new suggestion for social security, medicaid or medicare reform nor did he suggest in his speech a means to pay for the health care savings accounts for small businesses, the increased spending on alternative resources (wind, nuclear, or coal) + environment-friendly cars, and the training of 75,000 teachers in advanced placement courses in math and science. Worthy though it is, his call for the elimination in earmark reduction received little support and won't be passed easily.
Not surprisingly the president played to his base when he referred to the "revolution of conscience." He gave credit to Republican and Democrat alike with respect to welfare reform and spoke optimistically for the downsurge in violent crime, drug abuse and abortions. He said parents are worried about the courts "redfining marriage" but to the PoliticalHeretic's relief said little else with respect to that topic. The president's defining cultural agenda item concerns embryonic research and human cloning.
Mr. Bush offered the country a vision. We can agree with it in whole, in part, or not at all but he gave us a vision for the next year. Over the next few months the president will have to show us how he will pay for that vision and the Democrats will have to show us if they can provide us with a better one.