Tuesday, 29 January 2008

State of the Union - it sounds familiar

The State of the Union address is a big deal in the USA. It's a chance for the President to tell the Congress and the public what the situation is and how the country should move forward. The 2008 address was the final one for George W. Bush and I bet the Democrats were glad.

Anyway, my thoughts on the speech are below. You can find the complete speech here.

Subject - The War on Terror™ and Iraq
"We gave our troops a new mission - work with the Iraqi forces to protect the Iraqi people."
He said this when he was talking about the 'surge'. What was the mission before the surge then? Were they not ordered to protect the Iraqi people? Supposedly, one of the reasons that the US went into Iraq was to liberate the Iraqi citizens from the likes of Saddam Hussein and terrorist groups. Saying something like that was a serious mistake.

After that he mentioned that the Iraqi people were "worried" that the US troops would abandon them, but instead of doing that, the troops would stay until the terrorists were gone. That is a huge, steaming pile of cra....erm, rubbish. I don't hear of a large number of Iraqis worrying about that. Also, if the troops stayed behind that is more lives at risk and many have died (needlessly) already. If the troops stayed it would also mean that the Iraqi government is undermined and that US forces would be stretched if they got involved in any other international conflicts.

At one point he mentioned that the troops have the "gratitude of the entire nation". This is totally true, but I couldn't help but feel this was purely done for TV because he knew both the Democrats and Republicans would give standing ovations for that - it was an attempt to make him look good, although he was only stating the obvious. There should be more detail in what he says.
"The American and Iraqi surges have achieved results few of us could have imagined just one year ago."
Ok, they have achieved results, but are they the results that he wanted? This statement was a cue for more clapping and then a standing ovation from the Republican supporters/members in the room. During this period, the Democrats remained remained seated and didn't clap at all. It shows that they (quite obviously) disagreed with what he was saying. It's not just the Democrats in the room that disagree with him - remember that his national approval rating has been below 40% for a while (the most recent poll showing him at 31%). Further evidence of that is shown in these statistics:
  • Over 60% of Americans want all troops out of Iraq withdrawn within one year.
  • 41% of Americans think that President Bush is "definitely worst than most" past presidents.
Anyway, back to the speech:
"Some may deny that the surge is working, but among the terrorists there is no doubt - Al Qaeda is on the run in Iraq and this enemy will be defeated."
Time for another round of clapping (another standing ovation with cheers). Again, he states the obvious and it was another obvious move to get the Democrats to applaud and therefore make him look good on TV. He's also got his terrorists mixed up again. I have no doubt that there's an Al-Qaeda presence there, but Osama Bin-Laden won't be there (way too risky) and it's mostly Iraqi citizens who are attacking US forces.
"You will have all you need to protect our nation"
He said this when talking about the US forces. He also mentions that some of them are returning home. This is yet more stating the obvious and boring, repetitive rhetoric. The current withdrawal of troops is slow. A huge chunk of the US population sees that - I've already shown you the statistics that prove that.
"We will stay on the offence, we will keep up the pressure and we will deliver justice to our enemies."
This was said when talking about the War On Terror™, and this section had a focus on liberty and independence. This was another opportunity for Dick Cheney to get out of his chair and clap. He could be employed as a cheerleading coach after he leaves office! I wonder if anybody's worked out if he spends more time standing up and clapping than he does sitting in the chair. This whole section was another exampled of rhetoric recycled from previous speeches. It contained no detail at all - totally pointless!

He mentioned that there was one thing that the US and the terrorists agree on - ending tyranny. I think this was a bad move. Ok, each side wants to end what they perceive as tyranny, but he said that we agree with the terrorists. That statement could easily be taken out of context and twisted by several groups.

The Democratic response
The response was delivered by Kathleen Sebelius, who is the Governor of Kansas. She was calling for action that is more reflective of America as a whole - a more balanced approach. She also stated that even though the withdrawal of troops were a good start, it's too slow and there is more work to be done. Here's a response from another Democrat - Russ Feingold:
"Perhaps most troubling was the President's steadfast commitment to an Iraq policy that has led to the deaths of nearly 4,000 American troops, continues to cost this country billions of dollars per month, and fails to make us safer in the global fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates. The president's policies are keeping nearly 160,000 American troops stuck in Iraq and sapping our ability to address the global terrorist threat presented by al Qaeda."
Dick Cheney and Nancy Pelosi
It was funny watching these two and they were a true contrast. Cheney was frequently smiling and gave a lot of standing ovations, whereas Pelosi looked uncomfortable, hardly smiled while Bush was talking and was less prepared to clap. She hardly gave any standing ovations either. Pelosi's attitude was reflective of the entire of the entire Democratic part of the room. The same can be said for Cheney and the GOP part.

The thoughts of the audience
Below are two of the reactions after the speech from the politicians in Congress. The first is from Barack Obama:
"Tonight was President Bush's last State of the Union, and I do not believe history will judge his administration kindly. But I also believe the failures of the last seven years stem not just from any single policy, but from a broken politics in Washington."
This quote is from John McCain:
"I applaud the president's efforts to reduce earmarks and their influence on federal government spending. Earmarks and pork-barrel spending steal valuable taxpayer dollars from national priorities, skew the budget process, and have led to corruption among lawmakers."
Those two quotes are further examples of how President Bush failed to unite Congress in his final State of the Union. It was a truly awful performance which had no detail and used far to much tired rhetoric.

So, what do you think?

Technorati tags: George W. Bush, State of the Union, USA, Politics