As many commentators have stated, he cut a very different swath than he had during previous States of the Union and during the election. Gone for once, was the smirking chimp, he resembled during the debates he resoundly lost against Senator Kerry. Gone was the strident, desperate tone. In it's place was a calm and quiet confidence; bouyed by a difficult victory, snatched from the jaws of exit-poll defeat and the hopeful courage and defiance of the Iraqi people.
One has to stop to acknowledge the true emotion two mothers, one a Kurd who lost her husband to Saddam Hussein's gas attacks, the other a midwestern woman who lost her son fighting in Iraq. A moment that rose far above the obviously staged proximity of their seating.
It was so magical a moment it almost erased the hoakiness of various members of congress holding up their ink stained fingers in pseudo-solidarity with Iraqi voters (which actually had more in common with another recent Republican show and tell prop that I think displayed their character in a far more telling manner - purple heart band-aids.)
Bush was clearly riding a high.
The question still remains, where will he lead the country with this new found confidence? Well, that is where things get a bit muddy.
He spoke at length about Social Security, and his private account proposal without explaining how it would be paid for or how it would do anything to actually fix the demographic shortfall that faces the system. The spontaneous cries of "No" from the Democratic side of the isle as he claimed that the fund would become "bankrupt" (a statement which assumes a 1.5% growth in GNP) unless his plan is adopted were telling.
He talked about No Child Left Behind, without mentioning the increasing drop-out rate of students under the system and increasing incidents of teachers aiding and abetting their students in cheating just to protect their own jobs. None of this was surprising in the least. He talked of submitting a "Comprehensive Energy Strategy"- which is very interesting since we still haven't heard any of the details of Vice President Cheney's Energy meetings with Enron's Ken Lay and others. He talked about making the his tax cuts permenent and simultaneously cutting the deficit in one half. (That'll be a nice trick, particularly with the 1.5% GNP from above - except that this statement is based on an assumed 3.5% GNP. It's it great to have a President who can be so flexible with reality?). He spoke of cutting 150 "redundant and unneccesary" federal programs - which of course is always true for all those people who aren't a recipient of those programs, and the reverse for everyone else - without specifying what any of those programs might be. He spoke of Syria and Iran, sending up the red-flag that they might just be next on his imperial - uh, I mean democratic - expansion schedule. (Including Iran in the statement was quite striking considered the tentative agreement which has just recently been reached between several European nations and Iran concerning their Nuclear efforts - an agreement that this Whitehouse appears determined to derail)
What's also interesting is what he didn't speak of.
He didn't mention Osama Bin Ladin!
He didn't speak of Humvee's with "Hillbilly Armor".
He did not speak tens of thousands of Iraqis, many of them innocent of any crime or terrorism - who have been killed by U.S. bombing raids.
He didn't speak of torture.
He didn't mention WMD's.
I truly think that the Iraqi election was a good thing, even if at this point the preliminary results seem to indicate that mostly Shiite Clerics and their supporters were elected and will have the dominant voice in the new Iraqi Constitution. Even though those who voted weren't able to truly deliberate on how well the candidates will address the issues and challenges before them. Even if their were no international monitors and the likelyhood of an accurate and fair accounting of the vote is unlikely in the midst of provisional government that is far from free of corruption, having apparently misplaced nearly as much money in two years as Saddam Hussein stole from the UN Oil for Food program in seven.
The Iraqi people stood up and that has to be respected.
I support at least in principle the idea of a new nationalized personal saving account system which is independant of Social Security, while we once again consider the idea of isolating the current Social Security surplus from the deficit and possibly letting some of or all of those funds be invested to protect the Social Security for far longer than anything the President has suggested.
I strongly support the idea of a guest-working program. Our immigration policies are clearly bigotted and do not reflect the market realities that the U.S. has a demand for certain types of workers and certain latin countries have a ample supply of workers willing to meet that need. The only reason these people are forced to become "illegal" is because of state department quotas which bar them from access to legal visas, and a failure of many of the companies who eagerly employ these people to be willing to pay them a honest living wage.
For many of the reasons stated above, I don't trust President Bush to honestly and seriously address these issues in a way that is well considered and free of partisan agenda. IMO He got lucky that after many many years of death and fear, the Iraqi people - possibly inspired by the people of the Ukraine - showed what they are made of.
Hope springs eternal, and I hope that America, if not neccesarily President Bush and his various plans, continue to be this lucky.