State of the Union Postmortem

Tonight’s State of the Union address was a bit strange on the domestic side, with President Bush somewhat declaring a series of ill-defined “Hopeful Society” programs that protect life, encourage education and innovation, and in general further the greatness of America and American culture. All pretty empty if you ask me, yet fortunately not the bulk of his speech.

But what the President was direct and unapologetic about was American global hegemony. Some will find this alarming, but tonight George W. Bush was perfectly clear that American leadership is necessary for global stability, and under his administration we will continue to lead — economically, politically, and militarily. As a specialist in international relations, I found this frank and honest declaration of America’s global responsibility refreshing.

I usually dread the State of the Union address; it is usually a lame series of platitudinous statements aimed at various constituencies. But tonight President Bush surprised me with his sincere demeanor, his succinct wording, and by giving a speech that was much more “State of the Union” than the now-common delineation of false promises and bogus initiatives. Something or someone told this President to avoid such empty rhetoric, and I think he was much more effective by doing so.

Update: Sorry about the multiple posts; our new server isn’t agreeing with me. But I wanted to add a few comments about key contradictions in the President’s speech:

(1) If we’re going to make the Middle East a bastion of democracy, then why would we need to reduce our reliance on Middle Eastern oil?

(2) The President hailed the confirmation of Justices Roberts and Alito, saying that they would adhere to the law. Why, then, did President Bush ask Congress to grant him a line-item veto — something declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court based on its violation of original intent?

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Leopold Stotch
About Leopold Stotch
“Dr. Leopold Stotch” was the pseudonym of political science professor then at a major research university inside the beltway. He has a PhD in International Relations. He contributed 165 pieces to OTB between November 2004 and February 2006.


  1. Dodd says:

    There’s nothing to stop Congress from passing a Constitutional Amendment allowing a line-item veto. In fact, it would be an essential part of any Balanced Budget Amendment – the need for which is even more clear now that we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that electing GOP majorities offers no protection whatsoever against profligate gov’t spending.

  2. ron says:

    I agree with Mr. Stotch’s opinion. I listened to the speech in the background and when the president said “pass the line item veto”, I nearly fell backwards. When the line item law was passed in the ’90s, Robert Byrd and 5 other congressmen “defended the constitution” (or saved their pork) by taking their case to court as soon as they had standing. If I remember correctly, the law was declared unconstitutional because congress did not have the right to give up responsibilities given to them through the constitution. (Forgive me for not remembering the exact finding; it has been 5 years since I studied the case)

    The exact line in the speech was “And we can tackle this problem together, if you pass the line-item veto.” (According to the Fox news website transcript) It was ambiguous as to whether it would be a law or amendment. Perhaps the speech writer knows that the American attention span is 10 min, not 10 years so it didn’t matter that Mr. Bush mentioned the what, not the how.

  3. Stephanie says:

    I can’t speak to number 2, but I definitely see two rationales behind the first:
    1. Oil is an extremely limited, non-renewable resource (unless you want to wait a loooong time). It’s only a matter of time before we run out at all, it’s just no one knows exactly when. Better find an alternative now than later.
    2. Hope for the best, plan for the worst. :~)

  4. Rusty says:

    Wait, you mean you weren’t watching South Park? But it was a classic episode!!

  5. Mythilt says:

    I believe that what was found unconstitutional was the fact that the line-item veto that was created was for budgetary matters only, rather than all laws. And as such a new law enacted with a different set of parameters would not be automatically determined, and as such a different ruling might occur.