The State of the Union a la Bush
President Bush’s state of the union address to the Congress and the American people on Jan. 31 was two-thirds Carl Rove and two-thirds hypocrisy. (Notice the overlap.)As with just about every other pronouncement coming out of this White House, the motivation was totally political. When the polls start to show that doggedly hanging on to a position is turning into a political liability, it becomes politically expedient to introduce an apparent shift in that position. But unfortunately, actions usually ignore or fail to live up to the rhetoric.Addressing the country’s current energy situation, President Bush now tells us that we can “dramatically improve our environment … move beyond a petroleum-based economy … and make our dependence on MIddle Eastern oil a thing of the past,” by investing in alternate energy sources. This comes after years of parroting “Halliburton Dick” Cheney’s attacks on renewable energy and efficiency programs as unrealistic, and cutting funding for them. Bush proposes a paltry 22 percent increase in funding alternative energy research, with the goal of cutting oil imports from the MIddle East 75 percent by 2025. What is really needed is an all-out program like President Kennedy’s challenge to put a man on the moon in 10 years. And I doubt whether Bush’s espousing alternate energy sources has tempered his and Cheney’s zeal for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (which would take nearly ten years to come on line).President Bush likes to call himself the “education president” and said, “We must continue to lead the world in human talent and creativity.” But less than a week after this lofty pronouncement, he proposed a 28.5 percent cut in education funding in his budget for the next fiscal year. Our primary and secondary education systems are falling farther and farther behind those in other countries in this increasingly competitive world. It is going to take a major change in the Bush Administration’s education policy – much more than his call for “putting an additional 70,000 math and science teachers in U.S. classrooms” – if we are going to make any progress on educating Americans for the world of the future.On the subject of health care, the president said “Our government has a responsibility to help provide health care for the poor and the elderly, and we are meeting that responsibility.” Yet the record shows that the number of people, and especially children, without health care has been rising steadily during his time in the White House.It has become politically advantageous for President Bush to acknowledge we have an immigration problem, so he now tells us that “We must have stronger immigration enforcement and border protection. And we must have a rational guest worker program that rejects amnesty … allows temporary jobs for people who seek them legally … and reduces smuggling and crime at the border.” It will be interesting to see whether and how this goal will be achieved.And it was politically astute to pass over the deteriorating conditions in Iraq – and now Iran, and the fact that after nearly three years, our troops still lack adequate protective armor.Colorado’s junior senator, Ken Salazar, has it right when he says, “Solving our nation’s energy crisis or fixing our health care system will require more than rhetoric.” That is the challenge facing the president. If the rhetoric of the state of the union address is not followed by real action, it will resemble, in the words of Shakespeare, “… a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”Glenwood Springs resident Hal Sundin’s column runs every other Thursday in the Post Independent.
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