The Big Initiative in last night’s SOTU address was reducing America’s oil dependency. Or, rather, oil “addiction,” as Bush put it. Interesting choice of words. Also, quite a change from the long-ago days when righties made fun of Al Gore’s warnings about dwindling oil supplies and the need for new fuel technologies.
“This was a switch from May of 2001 when Ari Fleischer, the president’s spokesman, said that the right to consume massive energy resources was ‘an American way of life.'” writes John Dickerson in Slate.
Or maybe not. I did a word search of the transcript; the words conserve and conservation did not show up anywhere in a “conservative” speech. Dickerson continues,
Bush put his case in a very Bushian way, presenting it as a pain-free alternative to the awful status quo. Only the corn stalk will suffer as we remake a huge sector of the economy and convert to clean, politically innocent fuel sources. None of us have to trade in our SUV’s, drive less, or turn down the thermostat.
We can have our oil and burn it, too!
In six years we’ll be driving ethanol-burning cars, Bush said, and by 2025 will cut our dependence on Middle Eastern oil by 75 percent. Yeah, and pigs will fly. Julian Borger of the Guardian reminds us that Bush is great at making grandiose promises but tends to fall a tad short on keeping them.
President Bush has been here before. He has pledged more support for alternative fuel technologies in previous State of the Union addresses, but US dependence on foreign oil has continued to rise throughout his tenure.
He persuaded Democrats to join hands with him on the No Child Left Behind education act in early 2002, which promised an extraordinary federal focus on improving schools, but then his administration failed to come up with enough money to run the programme.
Addressing the nation from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, President Bush captured the headlines by promising the city would “rise again”, only “higher and better” than before. Months on, reconstruction work is hamstrung for lack of funds.
He has also used the State of the Union speech to offer the bold vision of American astronauts returning to the moon and using it as a launching pad to Mars. Once again, the vision was there, but the necessary money has not been forthcoming.
And then there’s the fine print:
He predicted the US would replace 75% of Middle East oil imports by 2025, but only a fifth of American imports come from the region. So the alternative fuels would only account for 15% of total imports. That does not sound so breathtaking.
Bush wants to achieve his oil-based goals through market incentives, meaning some slice of GOP campaign contributing corporatocracy will be graced by tax breaks and sweetheart deals, and upper management will give itself a big raise, and not much else will come of it.
So much for an energy program. Elsewhere in the speech, Bush promised tighter budgeting. But what’s this: “I am pleased that the members of Congress are working on earmark reform, because the federal budget has too many special interest projects. And we can tackle this problem together, if you pass the line-item veto.”
Honey lamb, Congress did pass a line-item veto bill. In 1996. And in 1998 the courts (affirmed by the Supremes) found the bill to be unconstitutional. Keep up, son.
That and other quibbles related to Bush’s economic claims are explained by Peter Wallsten and Maura Reynolds in today’s Los Angeles Times. Wallsten and Reynolds also debunk Bush’s defense of his NSA spy program, a defense that employed the same old, familiar lies. Lies like â€œPrevious presidents have used the same constitutional authority I haveâ€ and â€œAppropriate Members of Congress have been kept informed.â€
There is something quite disturbing about the way in which Bush has taken to telling us in almost every speech he gives now the type of criticism of him we should and should not be making. It is so plainly not the role of the President to tell us what types of debates we ought to be having, and given his history of civility and those of his henchman â€“ from John McCainâ€™s black daughter to the metal illness of Gore, McCain and Howard Dean to the way in which the language of treason and surrender are tossed about like fun little playthings — he is particularly ill-suited to dispense those sermons.
The Bushian response is, of course, that Bush doesn’t do the nasty work himself. He has surrogates do it for him. Therefore, Bush remains a model of civil discourse.
I also agree with what Glenn says about Cindy Sheehan’s arrest.
This is nothing more than a naked attempt to stifle dissent and to create a criticism-free bubble around George Bush. … we apparently now have a country where the only ideas allowed to be expressed in our Nation’s Capitol while the President is speaking are ones which glorify the Government and its Leader and where dissenting views are prohibited and will subject someone to arrest. Message cleansing of that sort belongs at a political rally in North Korea, not in Washington, DC.
Naturally, the goose-stepping fascist toady Michelle Malkin is calling for punishment for Rep. Lynn Woolsey, who invited Sheehan and gave her a ticket. Woolsey, says Malkin, should have her ticket-distributing privileges revoked for being complicit in an act of disrespect for Dear Leader.
So is there some way we can get Malkin deported to North Korea, since she seems to think she lives there already? I think we’d all be happier.
(Cross-posted to American Street.)