Tuesday, January 23, 2007

State of the Union

The President delivers his first to a Congress controlled by the opposition. He's "politically wounded" on Iraq, but rhetorically unbowed.

And he calls for Americans to support his latest strategy.

The WP has more:

President Bush implored lawmakers and the nation last night to give him one more chance to win the war in Iraq and avoid the "nightmare scenario" of defeat while presenting a domestic agenda intended to find common cause with the new Democratic Congress on issues such as energy and immigration.

Politically wounded but rhetorically unbowed, Bush gave no ground on his decision to dispatch 21,500 more troops to Iraq despite a bipartisan cascade of criticism. Addressing for the first time a Congress controlled by the other party, Bush challenged Democrats "to show our enemies abroad that we are united in the goal of victory" and warned that the consequences of failure in Iraq "would be grievous and far-reaching."

"I respect you and the arguments you have made," Bush told skeptical lawmakers from both parties in his sixth State of the Union address and the fourth since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. "We went into this largely united -- in our assumptions and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq and I ask you to give it a chance to work."

With new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) sitting behind him in a sign of the power shift on Capitol Hill, Bush congratulated Democrats on their victory in the November midterm elections and reached out to them with ideas to expand health-care coverage, overhaul immigration laws and improve education performance. In his most ambitious new proposal, he laid out a plan to reduce projected gasoline consumption in the United States by 20 percent over the next 10 years.

"Congress has changed, but our responsibilities have not," Bush said. "We are not the first to come here with government divided and uncertainty in the air. Like many before us, we can work through our differences and achieve big things for the American people."

Yet his approach contrasted with the last two presidents to address an opposition Congress after their parties lost midterm elections. Ronald Reagan conceded mistakes in 1987, as did Bill Clinton in 1995. Clinton moved to the middle so conspicuously that the opposition leader who gave the official response noted that he "sounded pretty Republican." Although Bush acknowledged two weeks ago that "mistakes have been made" in Iraq, he appeared unchastened last night and took no responsibility for his party's defeat or errors in office.

Democrats seemed unimpressed by his governing blueprint and signaled that they are in no mood to meet him in the middle. Long before Bush arrived in the House chamber to deliver his remarks, Democratic leaders and allied interest groups rushed out statements blasting his domestic proposals as rehashed ideas, empty rhetoric or flawed concepts that would create other problems. But the divide between president and Congress was most inflamed by his leadership of a war approaching the four-year mark.

"The president took us into this war recklessly," said freshman Sen. James Webb (D-Va.), a former Marine who was tapped to give the formal response. Accusing Bush of disregarding warnings by national security experts before invading Iraq, Webb added: "We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable -- and predicted -- disarray that has followed."

Does anyone have any leadership to offer? The President offers no tangible sense of how his latest strategy will work. In fact, his extortions to support it sound unsurprisingly familiar. Hasn't he said this all before? How is his new approach different?

Meanwhile, all the Democratically-controlled Congress does is whine. A party in power can no longer stomp its feet and point fingers at the opposition in the oval office. Congressional leaders can and must step forward with productive proposals on how to solve the current crisis our country faces. But no. That might involve taking responsibility. That might put Congress' position at risk. Can't risk 2008 just for the sake of the nation!

I tire of new and old bosses. I long for leaders. Who's willing to step up?


Captain Ed is far more optimistic:

What do I think? It was an effective speech, probably more so than last year. He gave the Democrats plenty of openings for opportunities for bipartisanship. He stayed within himself, and offered his relaxed and engaging style that he often displays in front of live crowds.

The meat of the speech impresses me less. I'm a little troubled that he only gave Iran and Syria a passing mention. Iran would be one of the issues on which he could demand bipartisanship, since the Democrats spent the last two electoral cycles complaining that he hadn't done enough about Teheran.

We'll see. Color me 'illin until then.