State of the Union 2003

Oh, fine: I was going to leave the live blogging to Stephen, but I’m sitting here watching it, I guess I’ll post observations as I view the web stream.
Note: All quotes are best-I-could-do based on listening to the speech live; some inaccuracies may exist. You have been warned.
First observation: Nice suit, and like the tie.
Social Security: Hmmm, was that a pledge to privatize Social Security I just heard? Interesting; thought that was on hold for a while…
Healthcare: Big bodyslam to the whole nationalized healthcare thing; no shock there. Money quote: “Instead of bureaucrats and lawyers and HMOs, we must put doctors and patients back in charge of American medicine.”
My Beverage: Stephen’s got cheap-ass brandy; I’m enjoying a Red Hook Brown Ale, myself.
Foreign Oiiiiiil: Standard spiel here; reduce dependence on foreign oil. Not excited, sorry. I still want to hear somebody explain what happens to the miserable, economically retarded Middle East when we take away their one actual source of income. Folks seem to think they’ll just write us a nice thank-you note or something; methinks we might want to expect they might just be the teensiest bit pissed.
AmeriCorps: Ooops, wrong President. But he was going on about something about national service….
Fight Against Drugs: Well, at least he didn’t say “war”. $600 Million for a new treatment program — well, okay. How about we keep the $600M, legalize the stuff, and start making tax revenue off the phamaceutical firms that will rush into the market? Just a thought.
Human Cloning: Called for a full ban. Hmmm. Virginia?
Global AIDS: Asking Congress for $15 Billion, $10B in “new money” to fight HIV worldwide. Sounds good to me. Collapsing sick countries don’t make good partners, and Africa is the next Middle East in terms of breeding terrorists if we don’t help them survive. If it can be used effectively, it will be money well spent: both from a pragmatic, and from a moral perspective.
Terrorism: “One by one, the terrorists are learning the meaning of American justice.” Don’t know if I approve of the pace (how about we get a whole bunch of them at a time, eh?) but it sounded good.
Bioterrorism: “Project BioShield”? Eeeeeww. Rename that, fast. $6 Billion, huh? Is it me, or is there a lot of new spending in this speech for a Republican president?
Terrorist Threat Information Center: Merge all terrorism information into one place. Uh, ok. But the Devil’s in the details; stay tuned on this one.
Now It’s Getting Good: On WMDs and terrorism: “This threat is new. America’s role is familiar.” Not so subtle dig at our erstwhile European allies, eh?
And Better: “America’s purpose is more than to follow a process. It is to achieve a result: the end of terrible threats to the civilized world. All free nations have a stake in preventing sudden and catastrophic attacks, and we’re asking them to join us.. Yet the course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others. Whatever action is required, whenever action is necessary, I will defend the freedom and security of the American people.”
The People of Iran: “The United States supports their aspirations to live in freedom. ” Bravo.
Iraq Part I: “He has shown… utter contempt for the United Nations, and for the world. The 108 UN inspectors were not sent to conduct a scavenger hunt across a state the size of California.”
Iraq Part II: I think I get the strategy here: Note the repeated references to U.N. assessments. Tonight, we’re not going to hear new intel information. We’re going to hear the United Nations’ own case against Hussein. This is the same judo he used quite successfully in his U.N. speech last year: tonight, he’s putting the burden back on the defenders of the U.N. to explain why it’s ok for Iraq to ignore it, even when the U.N. itself has declared him in violation. Smart move. The really compelling American intel will come later: probably right before (or even right after) the attack begins.
Iraq III: “Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.”
Iraq IV: After listing Hussein’s torture techniques: “If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning.”
Iraq V: “And tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq. Your enemy is not surrounding your country. Your enemy is ruling your country. And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation.”
Iraq VI: February 5th is the date for the next checkpoint at the U.N. — not the 14th. Interesting. I remain convinced that the “we’re not ready to go for a few weeks anyway” CW in the media is bullshit; not necessarily from any reading of other reports (although folks like Den Beste have provided convincing arguments) but simply because it is completely to our advantage to keep everyone possible assuming we’re not ready until long after we actually are.
Closer: “Confidence in a loving God” — Well, could have been ‘Allah Ackbar’, so I guess that’s a little better. But not really.
Other Key Phrases / Statements
“Days of Promise, and Days of Reckoning”— Hopeful and resolute, yet wary; I like it. Particularly the ambiguity about exactly who the “reckoning” is for…
“Arrested or otherwise dealt with” — Bush’s description of what we’ve done to Al Qaeda leaders. “Otherwise dealt with” ? That gets the euphemism of the night award….
Overall Thoughts: Eh. It was good, not great. The SoTU is always such a laundry list, it’s hard to actually make it a good speech. He hit most of the right notes (Iran, AIDS, Iraq) and a few clunkers (Fight Against Drugs, Cloning), but that’s taking my biases into account.
Overall I think the inital spin is going to say it was somewhat disappointing, especially for lack of new and exciting Iraq evidence — but see my thoughts above on that. But that’s okay, because in a week or two, the real Iraq speech will get rolled out, and he’ll have much more time and focus to do a proper job of making the case. The SoTU was never actually the right forum for that anyway, so this shouldn’t be a huge shock (but probably will be treated like one; expect “No new evidence” to be part of the headlines in the NYT tomorrow).
And that’s all for me for now…
Update: Not the NYT (yet), but I told you so: USA Today: Case for attacking Iraq still short on critical details

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