Lots of media attention has been paid to President George W. Bush’s (R) plans for a troop ‘surge’ in Iraq (which I naively thought, after years of listening to Democrats’ claim that we needed a troop increase to stabilize Iraq, would receive a warmer reception from the new Congressional majority). But rather than argue against this new stance of the Democratic Party with the very arguments it made six months ago, I’d like to focus on a more underreported element of Bush’s 1/23 State of the Union address.
Several times during Bush’s address, I felt a strange feeling of deja-vu. So much of it sounded so very familiar. The ideas presented, in large part, are ideas that have been presented in the past by others or—most of the time—by Bush himself. Worst of all, most of the ideas are good ones that were never acted upon while Bush had a friendly, same-party Congress to work with.
Bush proposed fixing our slowly-bankrupting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs . . . a proposal he has made in most of his State of the Union addresses, and in six years—most of which with his own party a solid majority in both houses of Congress—he has failed to motivate any Congressional action. The Democratic Party has no apparent interest in fixing these programs (lest the short-sighted AARP lobby turn against them), so the opportunity is lost for the time being.
Bush proposed pressing forward with education reform, including a voucher program which would open up new opportunity for children stuck in the worst public schools. Again, Bush had six years with a same-party Congress to make this happen and failed to do so. He is very unlikely to ever make this happen with a Democratic Congress. Again, the opportunity is lost for the time being.
Bush proposed a series of immigration reforms—reforms which he also proposed last year—which would help secure our borders while creating a guest worker program to mitigate/eliminate any potential negative impacts on our economy. The previous Republican Congress botched this one up pretty badly, but I don’t think the prospects have improved with the party changeover. Many Democrats talked a lot on immigration reform during their 2006 campaigns, but I doubt anything will happen. Again, six years of opportunity lost.
Bush chided the Senate for its failure to appropriately ‘advise and consent’ on the appointment of federal judges, but—again—Bush had six years with a friendly Congress that failed to limit the filibustering of judicial nominations and, thus, failed to uphold its Constitutional responsibilities. As the leader of the Republican Party, Bush should not have allowed judicial nominations to remain outstanding going into a Congressional election cycle.
Bush gave the Iraqi government a verbal ultimatum that they needed to get control of their country and bring an end to the sectarian violence—a verbal ultimatum I seem to remember hearing almost every time Bush has spoken in the last three years. Where’s the action, President Bush? How will the ‘surge’, which is a sound idea in-and-of itself, change the apparent ineffectiveness and lack of will inside the Iraqi government? Why will the ‘surge’ be more effective in that respect than the three years of varying policies and strong words we’ve tried already?
Bush proposed a Civilian Reserve Corps., which would operate similarly to the military Reserve branches but perform non-military functions when necessary. Sound familiar? This proposal was my favorite part of General Wesley Clark’s (D) 2004 presidential campaign, which caught my attention because it is something that I would seriously consider participating in. It’s been two years since General Clark proposed this, President Bush. Why are you proposing it (as if it’s a new idea) now?
All-in-all, Bush’s State of the Union address illustrated exactly why I’m not particularly bothered about the new Democratic majority. If our president wasn’t able to get these things done during his six years with his own party running Congress, they just weren’t going to happen. Ever. No big change.
- 2007 State of the Union Address Transcript (C-SPAN.org).
- Previous State of the Union Addresses (C-SPAN.org).