EVERYTHING KEEPING US TOGETHER IS FALLING APART. One more thing about the SOTU. Bush relied on the familiar case that you and your family will die if we withdraw from Iraq: "[O]ut of chaos in Iraq would emerge an emboldened enemy with new safe havens, new recruits, new resources, and an even greater determination to harm America." One of the bravest journalists there is, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, recently spent some time among the Sunni insurgents and found an encouraging pocket of Sunni discontent with al-Qaeda:
JUST POSTED ON TAP ONLINE: SWING AND A MISS. In his column this week, MikeassessesNancy Pelosi's recent tussle with the most senior member of the House, John Dingell, regarding committee jurisdiction over global warming policy. Mike says that Pelosi's right on the merits, but likely picked a fight she's not going to be able to win.
VPOTUS? It�s pretty clear that Jim Webb tore it up last night. Aside from that odd reference to the �seventh� time Bush has spoken on energy independence in a SOTU (he�s given six), he was on fire, as my pal BB from Albany put it. I don�t think there was one clich� in the whole thing. The segue from father to himself to brother to son was engrossing without being maudlin, and the final phrase -- �if he does not, we will be showing him the way� -- was pitch perfect.
The initial response to President Bush�s new health care proposal indicates that it is unlikely to go very far, but it is still worth considering its implications. The basic principle is reasonable, even if it does little or nothing to address the real problems of the country�s health care system: it equalizes the tax status of health insurance regardless of whether it is purchased through an employer or by an individual worker.
SOTU IMPRESSIONS. The speech, technically, struck me as fairly unobjectionable. Bush didn't much stumble or shock, the rhetoric never soared but rarely fell (with one major exception). The few policy ideas outlined were uniformly awful, of course, ranging from the wreck of a health policy proposal I tore apart earlier to the surge. I'm a bit more concerned about Bush's promise to "submit a budget that eliminates the Federal deficit within the next 5 years." That's a savvy move that will be hard, politically, to reject.
THANK YOU TO THE BLACK WOMEN OF VIRGINIA. The junior senator from the Commonwealth of Virginia, James Webb, is hardly my favorite freshman. (Feminists of my generation find it tough to forget his attack on the women attacked at the Tailhook convention in 1991.) However, there's no denying the effectiveness of his rebuttal to the State of the Union. He kept his message simple and strong, bringing the weight of his family's continuing military history to his reasoned denouncement of the war in Iraq. And his clearly articulated explanation of the economic injustices now endured on some level by most Americans was dead-on.
DROP IN THE BUCKET. More on the noblesse oblige theme. Did the president just applaud himself for getting AIDS drugs to 50,000 people on the continent of Africa? According to the U.N., of the 900 million people on the continent, "an estimated 24.5 million people [in sub-Saharan Africa] were living with HIV at the end of 2005 and approximately 2.7 million new infections occurred during that year." Thank goodness that Africa's devastation at least gets some notice in a presidential address but, really, I think we could do a bit better at getting AIDS drugs to a continent deep in crisis.