State of the Union Not Looking So Stately


WASHINGTON, D.C.— President Bush’s State of the Union address tonight is supposed to be low key, but already it has been transformed into a political campaign rally.

Right-wing Republicans here are building a new P.R. campaign against liberal Bush-bashers, portraying them as a group of dotty Vietnam War-era has-beens. An “Impeachment Forum” lunch of anti-Bush activists here yesterday was reported by the Washington Times as a gathering of geriatric leftovers. Former attorney general and onetime Saddam attorney Ramsey Clark’s voice “faltered.” Marcus Raskin, founder of the leftish Institute for Policy Studies, was “confused.” Cindy Sheehan was depicted as the ditzy, commie-loving “Mother Sheehan.”

“Attending yesterday’s private lunch were about 100 anti-war activists, many of them silver-haired, bespectacled veterans of the 1960s in linty sweaters and Naturalizers, nibbling on vegan pizza and bean sprouts,” reported the Times.

“On the wall was a painted collage of slogans (“Make Love Not War”) and nostalgic faces such as Joan Baez, Bella Abzug and a younger, thinner Ralph Nader.”

By contrast, the College Republicans (of Jack Abramoff fame) were getting set for a “Support the Troops” rally for Bush, bouyed by the appearance of Senate Majority leader Bill Frist.

Key topics for Bush’s speech tonight:

Health Care: We now devote 15 percent of the nation’s economy to health care—some $1.7 trillion. The number of people without health insurance rose by 800,000 last year to 46 million, and is expected to keep on growing. As health insurance premiums for workers rocket upward, coverage declines: Half of all small businesses no longer provide health benefits. Half of all personal bankruptcies are due to health care bills.

The administration’s remedy is limp proposal to give consumers more information so they can shop around to buy the plan that best suits their needs—useless to people without money to buy any of them, good or bad. The president wants people to save for their medical crises by putting money into health savings accounts, which in theory can be used as backup in case of catastrophe. Most people don’t have any money to invest in such plans. As always, Bush is sure to repeat his demand to limit malpractice suit damages.

Economy: Bush will try to make his tax cuts permanent, a move that would push the budget deficit higher. The 2005 budget deficit was $319 billion. Goldman Sachs predicts it will reach $5 trillion in the next decade. A year ago, then Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan declared, “The federal budget is on an unsustainable path. . . . Unless that trend is reversed, at some point these deficits would cause the economy to stagnate or worse.”

National Security: The president will once more defend his post-911 NSA surveillance program, claim victory in Iraq and Afghanistan, and extol the export of democracy (the Hamas victory in Palestine not withstanding) around the world. However, the war in Iraq rages on. The Taliban are back in Afghanistan. Radical fundamentalist Muslims are spreading across the Middle East from Iran, through Iraq, and now into the Palestinian territories.