Items from the State of the Union
(Apologies in advance that this took so long. Other matters intervened...)
OK, basic impressions: Definitely not the best nor the worst speech I've ever heard. I heard things I liked and things I disagreed with in there. Let's look at both of those in turn.
I liked the statement that America will never seek a permission slip to defend our security. I feel the same way. If we're all going to be honest here, I think it's safe to say that we all feel the same way. Who among us would have stood up and said we needed consensus from the League of Nations (example, only) to respond to the bombing of Pearl Harbor? No one, that's who. Is there anyone who seriously has issue with our military operations in Afghanistan? Not really. Sure, there were those who thought we were doing the wrong thing initially, but the fact is that Osama bin Laden was in Afghan territory, Al Qaeda was training there, and they were using Afghanistan as a base of operations. The Taleban were covering for them and offering them support. Those issues are not in dispute and America was completely correct in moving against them. Afghanistan is a better place for it today and I echo the President's remark that I am happy to be their friend. When all that was going on, I was working with a man from Afghanistan. He was there when the Soviet tanks rolled in and managed to get his family out to come to America. He was quite happy with America's actions and told me that he might consider returning home now that the Taleban were gone.
Ah, but what about Iraq. See, I honestly don't think anyone has a real problem with America using military force against those who threaten us. The issue is in 2 things: 1) Being sure that they are a threat and 2) how much threat do they need to be to warrant that kind of action. This is where we are all differing. Those that do not support the war are quick to say they support our troops, and they really do. They do not believe that Iraq constituted a threat worth fighting over. Those that support the war (and I'm speaking about Iraq, specifically) thought (and think) that Iraq did constitute such a threat. The oft-mentioned WMD is the key sticking point. The President said they had them and he wasn't alone. President Clinton said the same thing. So did numerous other experts in the years preceding both the war and President Bush's administration. Well, we haven't found them. The President said in the speech last night that reports show these programs were still in the making, if only on paper, and there have been "significant" equipment siezures that show the programs were ongoing.
I'm sure we'll have more arguments about what constitutes "significant." More on that issue at another time. Let's get back to the speech.
The President dealt with various criticisms about the Iraq actions but the point I thought scored best was about the suggestion that we need to internationalize our efforts. He proceeded to list over a dozen countries that have joined in the effort and that was a point I felt needed to be made. The media would have you believe it's the US against the world over there and that's just not true. The Brits, Japanese, Polish, Danes, Spanish and Italians all have troops in the theater and so do several others. It's a criticism that just doesn't resolve with the facts and I was happy to see it get called out.
I liked the concept suggested that kids that take more challenging courses in High School should qualify for bigger Pell grants. It's a nice incentive for taking the harder courses. Now let's discuss what qualifies as such a course and try to keep the law from including a grant to some small town in Wyoming to build a Ronald Reagan memorial. I also want to make clear that this law should discuss classes that qualify only without respect to any race, creed, geographic location, native language or anything else. If we all decide that Pre-Calculus qualifies then that's what qualifies, period.
I am cautiously approving of the inmate education suggestion he made, but there's too few details to really go into a discussion on it. I think there are several convicts that get released that honestly want to do things right and not go back to jail. I think that any help we can provide them can only help us as a whole and, therefore, is a good idea in general terms. Let's see some specifics before we go any further.
Now, let's talk about the things I didn't like. First, and most grating to me, it doesn't matter how often you say the economy's improving, it's a question of whether or not the improvement is really an improvement. Can you really say the economy is improving when 1) people are still getting laid off in droves, 2) the top worry most people have is whether their job is next on the chopping block, and 3) families are having to carry debt-loads that are breaking records in order to make things work? Every time he said it, I did a little wince inside. You have to keep listening and try to hold off the urge to start forming counter-arguments in times like those, but I was truly tested. After the speech, I finally hit on what the problem was: he, like most of the people inside the beltway, equate the DOW index with the economy. The Dow Jones Industrial is over 10K again, so the economy must be improving, right? Sorry, no. Thanks for playing. When more people are seeing economic improvement than aren't, you can say the economy has improved.
And about that immigration plan, boss. The President says he's not for amnesty. I say a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, or rotten in this case. I'm glad to hear him say it explicitly but now I want him to put the money where his mouth is. I am all for seeing a proposal on the issue but I would absolutely oppose any plan that allows people here illegally to stay. They can head back home and apply at the temporary worker stations if that's what they want, but they go home first.
The Patriot Act, as currently passed, is simply too broad and too easy to abuse. It needs to be allowed to die and, if the need is still there, new legislation can be crafted. But I heartily disagree with the notion that the Act must be renewed.
It's all well and good that we finally gave prescription drug coverage to seniors via Medicare. The method it's given is an abysmal mess and hardly something to be proud of. It needs work, Mr. President, and you should try to fix it.
I was curious that the newly announced space initiatives didn't merit a word in the speech. I would have thought that, having made such a wide display of approval just days earlier, he'd have at least mentioned it.
Lastly, I found Senator Kennedy's behavior during the speech to be juvenille, rude, and inexcusable. He and many others would have howled in anger had the President made similar eye rolls, head shakes, and generally disgusted and dismissive gestures during any speech he made. They would have been calling for his head and I think rightly so. You're supposed to be a leader, Senator Kennedy, and a professional. If you can't comport yourself in a similarly professional manner during someone else's recognized turn on the floor, then don't attend. You didn't further any of your causes by acting this way.
Now, I'd love to keep going over all this stuff, but something has been brought to my attention that needs my research even more, and it's a pretty chilling thing if true. More to come.