2004 State of the Union Wrap-Up

The speech was reasonably well written although, as always with these things, too long and covering too many subjects. While this wasn’t the best speech Bush has ever delivered, he did a solid job with it. It didn’t have the passion of his post-9/11 or post-Iraq invasion speech but the delivery was smooth and confident.

The opener was excellent. Speaking of the privilege of serving in elected office and then tying it in with Afghanistan and Iraq was expected but still needed saying. Throwing in the Palestinian Authority was interesting although a bit odd since we didn’t have much to do with that one.

The Social Security section was reasonably solid, although I’ve heard all the arguments before. Putting the years into personal terms–“parents of five year olds are already thinking thirteen years ahead to college”–a technique often used in the classroom–was very well done.

Bush got a standing ovation for saying that we would help achieve peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, although it was entirely unclear how we’d do it except that Condi Rice was going over.

Calling out Syria was interesting, and remniscent of the Axis of Evil announcement a couple SOTUs back. He mentioned Iran again this time, too, including a direct pledge to their people that “as you stand for freedom, America stands with you.” That’s a bold and powerful pledge, although it’s not clear we really have the resources to back that up at the moment.

I’ve got mixed views about the presentation of the Iraqi voter woman and the parents of the Marine killed in Iraq. It’s a powerful technique, to be sure. When Ronald Reagan first started the bringing of heroes to sit in the guest box and then told their story, I thought it was special. I don’t know whether it’s just been done too much or I’m more cynical in my advanced years, but I’ve gotten tired of it. It seems so incredibly exploitative, although they seem not to mind it.

Overall, it was a solid speech with lots of good sound bytes. Even as a whole, it was much less laundry list-like than many recent SOTUs.

A summary of the television talking heads on Fox News will be forthcoming.

Brit Hume did a long homily on the state of Social Security as a set-up to whether Bush did a good job explaining the need to reform. The gang seemed to think he did, although they were tepid on the matter. Hume notes that it was unusual that the Democrats booed Bush during this portion of the speech.

Interruption for Democratic response

Tom Delay termed the speech “a home run” and one of the best SOTU’s he’s seen in over 20 years. His finger was blue, in honor of the Iraqi election.

Sen. Ken Salazar (D, CO) is very boring. He’s trying to spout the Democratic talking points about Social Security not being in crisis but seems not to believe it.

Charles Krauthammer termed the speech “pedestrian.” He seemed rather impressed, though, that Bush laid down markers to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Iran.

Juan Williams thought the speech was very moving on an emotional level. He thought Bush could have offered more specific policy details on exiting Iraq.

Chris Wallace though Bush’s description of the Union, “confident and strong,” also describes Bush.

Unless someone really interesting comes on very soon, I suspect my live blogging will end.

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Jim Baxter says:

    President Bush did well to remind the world that the way to Peace is not directly to Peace: it is a consequence of Freedom. Why? Because the human being is a creature who makes choices (liberty). His natural need is therefore an environment of Freedom where he can fulfill his nature as earth’s |Choicemaker. Result: Peace.

    Man is earth’s Choicemaker. Psalm 25:12 He is by nature
    and nature’s God a creature of Choice – and of Criteria.
    Psalm 119:30,173 His unique and definitive characteristic
    is, and of Right ought to be, the natural foundation of
    his environments, institutions, and respectful relations
    to his fellow-man. Thus, he is oriented to a Freedom
    whose roots are in the Order of the universe.

    See the complete article at Homesite:
    “Human Defined: Earth’s Choicemaker”

  2. Lt Bell says:

    the privilege of serving in elected office???

    Is this some kind of a joke???

    This little liar has served up billions of taxpayer dollars to the likes of haliburton and cheny/rumsfeld

    He has never served anyone but the Bush family fortune or himself.o
    Did the United States of America Need Fighter Pilots in Vietnam during that war??????

    98% of the pilots trained during Vietnam actually volunteered
    and went to Vietnam, they gave actual service to our Country.
    where was this liar then and where is he now??????????????????

  3. Lt Bell says:

    Jim Baxter?
    What planet are you living on??
    Untold thousands have died because you and people like you would see thousands die just to support your religion??
    When Islam is the dominant religion in this country you will be singing a different tune

  4. anjin-san says:

    Funny how Bush does not seem to be concerned about freedom for in the homeland of his buddies, The Sauds. Or in Egypt. Or China, or…………………..

  5. Rick DeMent says:

    At least Bush came clean about one thing, the Social Security trust fund is a fiction, all that surplus payroll tax you people have been paying since Reagan raised the tax rate in 1984 is gone we spent it and we don’t really see the need to honor that commitment to anyone younger then 55.

  6. LJD says:

    Here we go with the blanket anti-Bush statements from the frothing-at-the-mouth…

    I really enjoyed the post-(Iraqi)election pause. The speech seems to have been timed appropriately: following the successful elections, evidence of a disrupted insurgency, and the abduction of childrens toys in Iraq, it’s time to realize once again that “the sky is falling!”

    This little liar is your duly elected President. Have some respect, if not for him, for your fellow citizens. I see where you stand though. After 80% of CBS news viewers approved of the President’s speech, you’re still riding the Bush National Guard story. Pathetic.

  7. McGehee says:

    …all that surplus payroll tax you people have been paying since Reagan raised the tax rate in 1984…

    Idiot (I mean, Rick), there hasn’t been a Social Security “trust fund” since at least the 1960s.

    But thanks for reminding us that before there was Bush Derangement Syndrome, there was Reagan Derangement Syndrome — and that it still afflicts thousands.