Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Quick Hits ... To The Face

1000 apologies for the delayed posting after the State of the Union. In all honesty, I was retching so hard into a brown paper bag I couldn't see straight. Yes, Harry makes an appropriate point that the rhetoric of internationalism rang true -- although I don't believe isolationism is the issue here -- but certainly it should be no surprise that an assembly of speechwriters culled together for the purpose of penning the most important annual speech on the face of the planet can piece together a nice bit of prose. It was by no means a great speech, but it was fine. (Harry calling it among the best speeches he's ever seen is like saying he's seen great television because he just saw one of the best episodes of "The O.C.") For my money, it doesn't even deserve to stand in the same oeuvre as GWB's speech after 9/11. A copy of that speech was pinned to my wall, above my bed for months, yellowing underneath the small thumbtacks, before I took it down and stored it for posterity. This oration, on the other hand, was chockfull of platitutes and rhetoric, some hypocritical -- almost bipolar -- declarations and errant claims and suppositions that don't exactly pass the smell test. Bottom line, this was not a great speech (no great speeches set up the political enemy for such a perfect applause line, as Bush did with social security) but it was, shall we say, workmanlike: emphatic but a bit warmed-over and ultimately quite forgettable.

I'm currently posting during my lunch break, so I'm going to have to make this quick. But as I scan the text of the SotU (which I located online before the speech began -- nothing's quite as enjoyable as when following along aloud while nailing the president's accent and emphases) my notes begin to make some sense. Anyway, here are just a handful of moments that led to double-takes so hard I got whiplash.

A hopeful society has institutions of science and medicine that do not cut ethical corners
A really ballsy line made by the President, in my opinion. Painting himself as the pro-math and science president seems almost comedic at this point but even though this line was said in relation to embryonic research, I couldn't help but think about this front-page article from the Gray Lady. "Cutting ethical corners" to the best of my definition certainly includes refusing dissemination of science that condradicts desired policy, an accusation that has plagued this administration from the word go. From my vantage-point, I'd love to see a greater American emphasis on the physical sciences, research and education from the highest levels of our government. But it sure seems to me that whenever there's an option between science and appeasing the Right, GWB and Congress go after the money. This may just be another example of how distant this administration is from reality if they really do think they have a snowball's chance in hell of becoming the "science and math party" without reversing themselves on a few bookshelves' worth of policy. This is also not to mention Bush's specific call in the SotU to not perform research using stem cells, etc. It's hard for me to grapple my brain around the desire to not cut any corners in pursuing science and to restrict the use of *scientifically appropriate* matter to complete that end. It's a dichotomy that bothers me, and I don't see how it can be resolved. (Also, not to get all "What's the Matter with Kansas" on you all, but is stem cell research really among the big issues facing average Americans today? Is there a rash of cloning going on in towns across the country of which I'm not aware? Glad to see Bush is focusing on reigning in that epidemic.)

With so much in the balance, those of us in public office have a duty to speak with candor.
As a journalist by trade (by night, I solve crimes) it sickens me to hear the least open, the least forthcoming, the least informative administration in recent memory calling out for politicians to speak with "candor." How about talking to the press more than four times a year? And even then, it's a sham. One of the worst-kept secrets in political journalism is that, before the rare Bush press conference, the White House press secretary asks the reporters for their questions, selects five or six and then those are the reporters called upon to ask their questions. I know politicians always need to present an uncompromised view for the electorate, lest they needlessly put themselves in an unflattering light, but it's silly for this president to start demanding casual candor from other elected leaders.

Democracies replace resentment with hope, respect the rights of their citizens and their neighbors, and join the fight against terror.
Frankly, sir, not always. I am of the understanding that this administration thinks you can pick any renegade, tormented country; stick a democracy into a culture that equates politics with guns, not votes; and a perfect, westernized nation will grow, like a Phoenix from the ashes. Perhaps Mr. Truman Project can weigh in, but I don't believe Democracies always replace resentment with hope. If nothing else, Hamas' democratically handed power shows that democracies can simply feed the fire of terrorism, by simply moving it to the mainstream. Again, one could easily argue this black-and-white view of democracy shows how far the Bush administration is from reality.

Yet the tax relief is set to expire in the next few years. If we do nothing, American families will face a massive tax increase they do not expect and will not welcome.
This is like a spoken M.C. Escher etching. Telling Congress to approve more tax cuts because, if not, a tax increase will barrel its way into our lives is like telling children not to take a bath because once they're clean and dry they shall become dirty again. That "massive tax increase" of which Bush speaks -- to the best of my knowledge -- would simply be the rebound back to normalcy before the Oval Office started slashing programs and funding. I'm not saying I'm against cutting wasteful programs and returning those tax dollars to the people (who would?) but I just think it's laughable that Bush is warning us of an unwelcome boost in our taxes -- equal to the unwelcome stripping of programming funding he created. (Also, more (OK, any) analysis would help show that this is about upper-class cuts and middle-class cuts that's bad for us and good for Bush's base, but I'll let that be.)

OK, running out of time here. Last thoughts:
Anybody else like the naked power-grab with the "we can tackle this problem together, if you pass the line-item veto" gambit? Please, the line-item veto is not a move toward working "together" -- if anything it's a permission slip to do the opposite.

I don't see a damn similarity, beyond the purely cosmetic, betwen MLK Jr. and his push through Burmingham and Selma and the current War in Iraq. I found it shocking Bush's speechwriters found that to be an appropriate comparison. I could be misunderstanding the analogy, but I doubt it. In the last moments of the speech, Bush told us to keep fighting on -- what else are we fighting besides wars in the Middle East and against science?

Did everybody notice that at one point that Bush flipped past two pages? Either he flipped forward to see how much was left (like we used to do with the Amidah) and the NBC feed caught him going back or the writers gave him some blank pages. What makes less sense? Fuck if I know.

What, exactly, is a "human-animal hybrid" and why did they get a mention in the State of the Union? I guess the president is tired of all the centaurs running around.

For what it's worth, I preferred "Islamofascism" over "Radical Islam." Just more fun to say. Plus I'm hoping a strain will morph out down the line like "Hyperislamofascism." Now that would be a scary foe.

Hey, remember last year when we were promised a Mars trip? Whatever happened to that, anyway? Probably put in the drawer labeled "Cute Ideas We'll Never Follow Up On." Oh well, at least it will have some company this year with "speaking with candor" and "science is good."


Post a Comment

<< Home