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"Nothing to offer but blood, sweat, and boredom."

Ugh. Is that really the best that the president and his speechwriters could do? Goodness knows I don't generally look to politicians for inspiration, and I certainly don't look to this president for rousing oratory. (Let's face it: whatever you think of his policies, you have to breathe a sigh of relief any time Bush manages to speak a whole paragraph without inventing a new form of grammar along the way.) But even so, I expect at least a minimal level of dramatic performance out of a State of the Union address. If we can't get a bold proposal, at least we're owed an interesting catch phrase like "Axis of Evil."

But this one? Yuck. I'd expect a Student Government president to give a speech like this one. It was just a rambling collection of blah, and while Bush occasionally projected an air of defiance, it was directed not at Al Qaeda but at his domestic political opponents. The entire speech was defensive in tone, as Bush seemed to be responding to every criticism that has been levied at his policies as though he had been saving up a list for just this occasion. And as though he were determined to give not even one inch of ground, to concede even the possibility that some of his policies need tweaking.

It's one thing to say, "Yay, tax cuts." That's core Republican belief, and there's some evidence that they're helping the economy, even if you'd never get Paul Krugman to admit it. But the Patriot Act? Come on. A third of the country hates it, and the rest are, I suspect, pretty indifferent. (Does anybody outside John Ashcroft's office sit around saying, "Praise the lord for the Patriot Act"?) So who was his defense of the Act aimed at?

Okay, the part where he listed all the countries in our unilateral coaltion was good; I'll give him credit for that. But the rest of the speech? We saw neither humor nor boldness, neither vision nor outreach. Some red meat for his base, as he denounced gay marriage, campaigned for abstinence, and proposed money for faith-based institutions. But nothing for the rest of us.

Not that the Pelosi-Daschle response was any more inspiring, mind you -- but at the end of the night I left the room (actually, I just changed the channel, but that's not the point) hoping that Joe Lieberman does well in New Hampshire.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on January 21, 2004 7:50 AM.

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