Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Angry Old Cheney

I watched the SOTU last night with a good group of animated liberals, which is really the only way to watch a speech by President Bush without getting too depressed. Now, in analyzing the speech, I will have to go on the assumption that President Bush was sincere in all of what he said, although I will not refrain from mentioning the parts that I don’t think he will live up to.

The biggest surprise was definitely his talk about energy independence from the Middle East. Although this speech is a minimum of two years late, it is comforting that the Bush administration has finally come around. I like his emphasis on investing in research and development of cleaner and more efficient technologies. The reality though is that if their latest energy policy had actually dealt with these issues instead of serving as a hand-out to Bush and Cheney cronies, he could have taken credit for those initiatives and two years of progress last night.

His talk about fiscal responsibility and decreasing the budget deficit was also encouraging, except I cannot believe that he is in any way serious about this pledge. In a public budgeting class I took in grad school, they stressed the importance of including your assumptions when putting together a budget. I would love to know what assumptions the folks at OMB used to help him come up with the numbers for his speech. Did they make the usual mistake of leaving out costs of a war in Iraq? Did they make overly optimistic projections on revenue despite plans to make tax cuts permanent? Or maybe they assumed that Congress would eliminate ear marking. Either way, I doubt we can achieve this with large tax cuts while at the same time fighting a war on terror.

What definitely didn't work was that he spent well over a half-hour talking about security, terrorism, and Iraq. I understand that his poll numbers are down, and security is one of the only things that Americans trust him with, but it felt like serious overkill. Yes, I agree that we need to support the troops; but we don’t need to spend 10 minutes talking about it, repeating the same theme over and over.

And finally, his defense of the NSA spying program was as superficial as everything he has released on it so far. I was expecting something better with the whole nation watching. Fortunately for him, much of the country appears to be in the camp that believes since they have nothing to hide when it comes to connections with terrorism, this issue isn’t important. But having an imperial President is important, and I wish the nation would pay more attention.