Usually the Democratic response to the State of the Union affair has been as tepid and bland as Aunt Minnie’s tea. Normally, after watching the ‘response’ speech, I angrily stomp off, thinking – no wonder we’re the minority party…who’d rally behind THAT?
Last night was different. Newly elected Virginia Senator James Webb confidently offered a different path. His foundation of three generations of honored military service shone in stark contrast to the Bush/Cheney/neo-con practice of sending people to places where the neo-cons have never gone.
Not one step back from the war against international terrorism. Not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos,” Webb said. “But an immediate shift toward strong regionally based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq’s cities and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq
Place that in contast with the Bush message – Yeah, we’ve had trouble over there, but we’re going to keep at it – continuing to conflate the war on terrorism with the sectarian conflict in Iraq, and avoiding the obvious question of who it really is we are backing.
Bush’s annual ode to energy independence would have a lot more promise if it wasn’t a recycled list of what he promised last year with a couple of exceptions. Considering that little has been done since last year, this year portends much the same.
The only flicker of a plan for anything was the tax-break plan for health insurance. Sadly, without any serious look at how health delivery is performed and how much of our health dollar goes for the high cost of insurance and the high cost of adminstering health plans, these tax savings will do little to contain health costs.
I’d like to assist Webb in showing the President the way..here’s a few items that could help salvaging his legacy:
1) Clear Communication to the Iraqi government that they will be taking over at a clear certain time and that their police and armies will be moving into control this year.
2) Serious, non-lip service commitment to energy independence. This entails incentives for conservation (not just a personal virtue anymore), stronger incentives to buy hybrid, commitment to safe nuclear energy not run the same way that our Halliburton contracts in Iraq have been mismanaged and fraught with over-runs, and more than just a political overture to the corn-growing states which means ethanol and bio-diesels not derived solely from corn, wind farms, and serious incentives for businesses to work in ‘green’ buildings and plants. This has to be more than just a yearly checklist trotted out at the State of the Union address.
If Bush would make serious, genuine strides towards energy independence and away from mid-eastern oil dependency he would be justifiable lauded. I’m still not sure that Cheney’s on-board, quite yet.
3. Follow-up STRONGLY with the war on HIV/AIDS and malaria in Africa. Put much more money and American peace corp where your mouth has begun to go.
4. Get serious about debt relief for 3rd world countries. Millenium goals are more than just speech adornments.
5. Use the bully pulpit and power of the United States to focus attention on Darfur. Cajole and arm-twist other industrialized countries to step into the breech. Convene a G-8 type summit with Darfur as the sole reason for meeting.
6. Veto any spending bill fraught with earmarks.
Go for the big stuff, and remember the 2006 election. We’re talking and we’re not going to shut up this time.