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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Free Floating Reactions To The State Of The Union Speech And Coverage

First, my prediction for soundbite of the night (all quotes from memory unless italicized, sorry): "Relying on the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option."

OK, let's just jump in:

Bush wants an energy plan to promote conservation, help the environment, and secure our energy independence. Now, as Chris Matthews noted later, the Republicans are the party of the hydrogen car. And what took so long? Clinton's flair for stealing the other party's message has become a "lesson learned". As to how seriously we take this...

$15 billion, including $10 billion of new money, to battle AIDS in Africa - more slick triangulation. Later, Kerry complained that this was a Dem issue from last fall. Great, now John and three other Democrats know. Meanwhile, Bush is a hero to millions, including me. The question no one was gauche enough to ask, so I will - Trent Lott penance at work?

Iraqi liberation as a war aim - "we will bring food, medicine, and freedom to the people of Iraq". I like it, my wife insists that she, and much of the world, hates it - American arrogance and over-reach. I say, the people in Eastern Europe loved "The Evil Empire", and the reformers in Iran loved this speech. Wilson. FDR. The Four Freedoms. Tension. Well, until she gets a blog I get the last word - I bet the Brothers Judd loved it.

The rest of the Iraqi war segment - impressive, but no blockbuster news item.

Now, post-speech reaction:

For the rebuttal speech, why did the Dems pick the Senior Class President of Washington High? Chris Matthews was laughing out loud after the Governor of Washington (Grove?) was finished, as was Sen. Rick Santorum, (R-PA). Some other Repub. commentator wondered why the Dems picked as their spokesmen a Governor with a 30% in-state approval rating.

My reaction: most of these rebuttals are weak, but this one set a new standard. For a party that wants to show its relevance, and answer concerns that its leadership is in disarray and lacks a message, this rebuttal was brutal. OK, the Dems lost seats in the House and Senate while picking up Governorships, so I suppose the Governors felt it was their turn. Whoa, guess again!

Chris Matthews: this is his Oscar night, and he has taken the crystal meth to prove it. Man, is he pumped up. But having fun!

Pat Caddell can not speak in sentences and should not be on these shows. But evidently, Mexicans are killing dolphins. I think. Maybe he was auditioning for one of those annoying "It's the static" ads.

Brian Williams asked a guest about whether there was a cloud over the economy due to the prospect of a war with Iran. We knew what he meant. But if Brian pounces on a "Bush mis-speaks!" story, well...

Ted Kennedy - suggested that, since circumstances have changed (he mentioned Korea), we should have another Senate resolution on Iraq - is he a glutton for punishment, or just a glutton? Look, Republicans will welcome a chance to re-affirm their support for the President. And Democrats who supported the first resolution will do what? Support the do-over, and re-annoy the base? Or switch sides, and appear comically irresolute? One imagines Teddy to be a master staregist, but is "Hamlet 2004" a winning ticket? [More in the UPDATE below]

That said, Teddy, chatting with Chris Matthews, gave a good impromptu rebuttal to the President, with comments about the economy, education, the tax cut, health care, and Iraq. He showed the charm and charisma we presume exists when he was saying good bye. Matthews said, "I want to get you on the Hardball College Tour", and Kennedy lit up! He looked twenty years younger, he was animated, he pointed at he camera and said, roughly, "You're on! We're going back to school, buddy!". I liked it.

Lindsay Graham , on C-Span: asked to single out something in the speech he did not like, Graham picked medical malpractice reform. Why? States rights! He "did not come to Congress to tell each state how to reform their tort system - let's give them a shot at this first" C'mon "state's rights"? I see through this racist code.

Dick Armey: Retired, and having fun. Mentioned the "Clinton-Gore axis", called Ted Kennedy the "bell-cow of the Democratic Party", and smiled the whole time.

John McCain - victory in Iraq in three or four weeks of fighting.

Norm Schwarzkopf - agreed that a war in Iraq would be quick. "I don't want to put a time frame on it, whether it would be one week, or two weeks, or three weeks...". The reservations he mentioned in the WaPo were not evident on national television.

Media Bias: OK, I watched the various Congressfolk stand and applaud, or sit and look perturbed. My questions: when Bush called for tax cuts, I saw one lonely Dem right near the aisle join the Republicans by standing and applauding. Who was it?

Secondly, and here is the "bias" bit - could we please have a little consistency in the reaction shots? One of Bush's applause lines was a clear slap at the UN and the multilateralists - something like "we will not put our the national security of the American people in the hands of the Axis of Weasels". For that reaction, unlike most of the others, we got a shot of a part of the Republican side, which of course was standing. But the Dems? We will never know.

Big Finish: A strong speech, which craftily stole a lot of Dem ideas. Bush will not be faulted for lacking a domestic agenda. By contrast, following Desert Storm, Bush I used his State of the Union and huge approval rating to issue a clarion call for...Banking Reform! The beginning of the end for him.

Also, Bush seems much more confident than a mere three years ago. When does the pressure of the job begin the accelerated aging? Dems will reply, it's only pressure if you are aware of what is happening... is it true there is a macro generating all this repartee? When does the Matrix Reload?

UPDATE: Transcript of speech.

On Ted Kennedy - he mentioned the Korean situation last night. He also mentioned concerns about Korea in the debate on the Iraqi resolution last fall. Furthermore, some critics (myself included) wondered how it happened that the Bush Administration released the news of North Korean violations after the vote on the force resolution. So, perhaps Ted is simply being principled and consistent, rather than crafty. But evidently, he means it.

An Alert Reader tells me that, according to The Corner, the lone tax cutting Dem was Red-Stater Max Baucus.

Tips for the Dems from Miss Manners. Hey, don't think of it as a speech - think of it as aerobic listening.

And for the quote board, if Blogger ever settles down: "Whatever the duration of this struggle and whatever the difficulties, we will not permit the triumph of violence in the affairs of men; free people will set the course of history."

Now the quiz: Was the speaker (a) Aragorn; (b) Elrond; (c) Samwise Gamgee; (d) George Bush?

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