Tuesday, January 31, 2006


9:05 p.m.
It hits us at the top of the hour -- this isn't a great speech. The president is now onto a laundry list of things -- Ryan White AIDS Act renewal? -- and is fast approaching his close. What's the deal with his jaw clenching?

He evokes Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King. History, he says, is written in courage, "and we will finish well." At 9:02 p.m. he does finish. Well?

Flash impression: Too long, a little rambling in places. Much stronger in his defense of foreign policies; seems more than a little vague on domestic affairs. His defense of domestic spying program could come back to bite, and hard.

A final image: Sen. Dick Durban and the president share a thumbs-up handshake like two homeboys. Only with better clothes.

8:59 p.m.
Education talk is all about big goals. Strides in math and science. Proposes to train 70,000 math and science teachers. Again, nice talk and nice goals, but is the will there to make it happen?

There's the word "compassion" again. Says America has become more hopeful in the past few years. Cites dropping crime, lower welfare rolls, drug use down, fewer abortions, drop in teen mom rates for a dozen years. He says it's "evidence of quiet transformation" (no doubt thanks to his presidency), but he's trying to have it both ways. Remember the GOP claiming Clinton sullied the country, made it dirtier? Then how come all these good things happened throughout his watch -- and since?

Cites "activist courts" now. Equal justice under the law. Gets applause by saying "hey" to Roberts and Alito. Says "judges must be servants of the law and not legislate from the bench." But what about when they legislate his way?

Gets more applause by citing Sandra Day O'Connor. Asks for prohibition on human cloning in all its forms, creating and implanting embryos for experiments. Everyone applauds and stands; it's easy political cover.

Uh-oh -- here comes ethics! Claims "both parties" have their problems, and that's true, but it dodges the fact that Jack Abramoff only gave money to Republicans, and only GOP politicians were up to their elbows in Jack A's crooked games. Bush spends less time than an applause line to cover ethics.

8:49 p.m.
He wants the line-item veto. Hmm.

He says Baby Boomers are starting to turn 60, "including two of my Dad's favorite people -- me and President Clinton." Cutaway to Hillary, who smiles. Kinda.

Chides the Dems for not acting to save Social Security. They stand and applaud. Bush calls for one of them there commissions to thoroughly investigate Social Security, etc. The Dems have won; Social Security is saved for at least the next three years.

Calls for stronger immigration enforcement and border protection, and a "rational, humane guest worker program." Do the Republicans stand and applaud? Nope.

Now everyone is standing up to applaud the need for health care. Confront the rising cost of care, help people get insurance they need. Nothing specific here. Strengthen health savings accounts; a strictly partisan call. Portability of insurance. Now comes lawsuits: Pass medical liability reform this year, he tells Congress.

Energy time: America is addicted to oil, often imported from unstable regions. Oh, really? Calls for more investment in zero-emission coal-fired plants and "clean, safe nuclear technology." That last one is going to be big, just watch.

Ethanol for autos; he wants it to become competitive within six years. Everyone seems to want it.

Calls for huge reduction -- three-quarters -- by 2025 of Middle East oil purchases by the U.S. Who doesn't like that? But really, who's gonna be there through 2025 to keep pushing the goal?

8:40 p.m.
Now it's the economy. Says we should not fear our economic future, "because we intend to shape it." He pauses a beat -- it must be an applause line -- but when no one applauds, he plunges on.

Insists the economy is strong. Wants his tax breaks to be made permanent. Weird grunting noises are added to the GOP applause; are they trying to be the Tool Time guy? Democrats warm their hands by sitting on them.

8:35 p.m.
Still on foreign affairs. Speaks of a desire to "spread hope in hopeless lands." Talks of "compassion" and evokes AIDS in Africa; impoverished and corrupt countries; uneducated girls in hellholes. "The United States is a partner for a better life," he says. Urges Congress to show that compassion -- then immediately segues back into the need to protect us from more terror. An odd transition, that.

It's somewhat scary to see Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzales and the rest of the cabinet rising as one, almost applauding in unison. A few Democrats applaud his call for a renewal of the Patriot Act. Just a few. Here comes the domestic spying reference.

"Based on authority given to me by the Constitution and by statute," he says he has the right to spy on American soil. Previous presidents had the same power, he says. "We will not sit back and wait to be hit again," he says in his best "kick your ass" voice. Camera cut to Sen. Hillary Clinton, smiling but shaking her head.

Bush does not call it "international surveillance" but doesn't spent a lot of time on the issue. Probably best when some Republicans in Congress wonder if he's breaking the law.

He calls for "steady, bipartisan support" in Congress to "lead this world to freedom." Democrats applaud -- camera shot of Hillary, and is she chewing gum? By God, we think she is! -- but must wonder if bipartisanship means being steamrolled.

8:22 p.m.
Nothing like watching Sen. Joe Lieberman, alone in a sea of unsmiling Democrats, applauding Bush's words on Iraq. "We are winning," the president says, but the Democrats are decidedly unimpressed.

No troop drops unless made by "military leaders" on the ground, not by "politicians in Washington, D.C." One might assume that would include the pols in the White House.

"Responsible criticism," yes. "Defeatism," no. In other words, as long as you're with him, you're OK. But don't dare mention anything about defeat.

8:18 p.m.
Syria, Burma, Zimbabwe, North Korea, Iran -- he names countries without democracies that he hasn't forgotten. A not-so-subtle list of future military engagements?

He mentions "radical Islam" and utters the name Osama bin Laden. Now they use "weapons of mass murder," not "mass destruction." WMMs, anyone?

No retreat, no surrender.

8:15 p.m.
Take your first shot -- he just mentioned Sept. 11.

8:14 p.m.
"Our differences cannot be allowed to harden into anger ... and I will do my part." What about the GOP partisans on the Hill?

8:12 p.m.
He starts with a tribute to Coretta Scott King. Smart move.

8:10 p.m.
Somewhere in all that mess, Rep. Roy Blunt is probably trying to pigeonhole a few stray congressmen to see if he can win their votes for House majority leader. The president has just been introduced, and now comes the multi-minute ovation.

There's Big Roy Blunt, right behind Sen. Bill Frist. If Bush stops there will be busted noses everywhere.

Clarence Thomas just gave Bush one of those "you bad-ass" looks. Woo-woo!

8:05 p.m.
So there's Sam Alito, freshly minted Supreme Court justice, gladhanding the secretary of state. There's Don Rumsfeld, guffawing about something. There's Laura Bush, looking pained (but good) in the balcony.

The pomp and pageantry is cool. It's still the president, regardless of whether he has your support.

7:35 p.m.
All this pre-speech nattering is maddening. Wolf Blitzer has video of the prez and the missus leaving the White House and taking the limo to the House chamber. At leave MSNBC has Craig Crawford from the Congressional Quarterly, who speaks sense. He notes that Bush will talk about the "War on Terror" instead of the Iraq War. Always better for Bush to distance himself from a hot war that isn't popular.

Speaking of that war, something came up on "Street Talk" that deserves some space here. The wounding of ABC anchor Bob Woodruff and his cameraman is certainly dark news. But is it worth this much time and space on media outlets? More than 7,600 men and women in the armed forces have been seriously wounded in Iraq. Each has a moving, compelling story about their survival. Yet we don't see many of those stories.

Is Woodruff more important than those soldiers? Of course not. But the extensive coverage of his injuries makes it seem so. Not cool.

7:25 p.m.
President Bush delivers his State of the Union address at 8 p.m. Central. On CNN, Paula Zahn and Wolf Blitzer are insufferably talkative. Over at Fox it's an airing of some report from Anita Vogel about a postal event in California; Bill O'Reilly is his typical gaseous self. And on MSNBC we find commercials, commercials, more commercials. Gotta get that rev in before the speech.

OK, Keith O. is back, bitching about O'Reilly. Such odd counterprogramming, bad-mouthing the guy airing opposite your show. Now KO is doing his O'Reilly imitation. Good TV, we keep insisting. Good TV.


Anonymous said...

"Live" blogging is fun :-) And despite my grousing about instant punditry, I'm enjoying some of your insights.

Quick take: Start with half a glass of third-year SOTU, drizzle an election-year stump speech on top until full. Serve chilled.

--A. Cline

Anonymous said...

Loved the thread.
You rock as always, Ron.

However, one contrary thought on the topic of Bob Woodruff:
My observation has been that each network, each cable news outlet, each national magazine, each major newspaper has produced PILES of stories on the American military men, women, and even dogs wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There have been countless profiles of the injured as well as profiles of those who care for them, one done by Woodruff himself.

A week has not gone by when I have not seen one of these profiles.

KYTV traveled to Washington D.C. to report on the treatment of Derick Hurt of Dade County who lost a leg.
While there the P.R. woman at Walter Reed told us she has been constantly swamped with requests by media outlets wanting to talk to the wounded.

If you feel like the media has been ignoring the wounded soldiers because they are not "stars," I contend it is YOU who have been ignoring their stories. Perhaps because, until now those stories have not been ABOUT "stars."

Just as you all but ignored the other half of the ABC duo injured.

The cameraman's name is Doug Vogt.


Ron Davis said...

JJ: Among the nationals, how many of those survivor stories grabbed the lead story and got continuing, "he's being evacuated" coverage? That's where I see a double standard being applied.

Anonymous said...

I actually enjoyed the President’s State of the Union speech tonight. Normally I would have been alternating between laughter and rage listening to Bush’s inept double-talk. Tonight I had only a strange sense of calm. The world had at last fallen into place for me and I felt as if I had found the connection I have sought for so long. I felt detached, as if the words I were about to hear would be as relevant to me and the turbulent world as would be a translation of the bragging hieroglyphs of some pompous Pharaoh from before the Common Era.

I thought about the night so unseasonably warm for early February and I traveled in my mind across the miles, following the genesis of that radio signal to our sacred temple dome, glowing with the warmth of the lights within. The announcer described how the building was ringed with security, sharp-shooters on the roof, choppers circling overhead enforcing the parameter. I adjusted my mental image a little and listened as the President entered the hall and slowly made his way through the crowd of fawning, bipartisan greeters toward the podium. The hysterical, roaring adulation that sounded on my small radio, was almost musical and, in its inordinately extended bombast, blended with my radio’s static.

Now that I was no longer a Democrat, I racked my brain for one person in that august body that I loved, admired, cared for or even regarded with a molecule of respect. As if in a strange way divining my very thoughts, the announcer broke in to say that Cindy Sheehan who had been invited to witness the proceedings as the special guest of California Representative Lynn Woolsey, had just been hauled from the chamber and ejected by security. “Yes,” I thought, “there was one just person in that whole assembly. They discovered her and threw her out.” Now that there was not one honest man or woman in the entire building, the proceedings could go on uninterrupted. I thought, “All the enemies of democracy are in one place. They are inside and the people are outside.” If there actually was an Old Testament god of vengeance who, at that very moment, would have ordered an angelic Sodom& Gomorrah strike on the building, reducing it to ashes, I would not have shed a tear.

The course is now clear to those of us who wish to save our nation. We now know that the enemy is not just Bush, not just the Republicans, but the whole rotten, bicameral membership and especially the Democrats – every last one of them. The Democrats have finally, completely, irrevocably broken the trust and dashed the hopes of the people. Now they had better look to Bush for protection from the wrath of their constituents. I’m sure Joe Lieberman will be happy to intercede with the Commander in Chief on their behalf.

The scales have finally, finally, fallen from my eyes. This causes me no despair, only a refreshing sense of renewed hope. Things have become so much clearer now.


Bob Boldt

PS The following Democrat Senators voted for cloture on Monday. Mark them well.

Nelson (FL)
Nelson (NE)
T. Johnson
B. Lincoln

Anonymous said...

Jessica Lynch

Anonymous said...

I'll start taking the State of the Union addresses seriously when the people delivering them start taking them seriously.
An end to the inane practice of balcony "shout-outs" would be a good start.
It's the State of the Union, not TRL. *
Can we focus please?

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