My SOTU telephone buddy and I thought that George Bush did well last night (and that his sobriety was a welcome relief from the current emotionalism of American politics elsewhere). I would concede that he should have talked more about the economic situation-he should have made the point that some of what is going on now is structural and needs changing. And, of course, I don’t like the so-called stimulus package that wreaks havoc on the English language (look up rebate-it doesn’t mean handouts). However, I am willing to revise my view of the speech. I have admired Bush personally, and perhaps that got in the way of my seeing glaring faults with his swan song SOTU. Powerline wore no such blinders:

“The first half of President Bush’s State of the Union swan song brought together a hodgepodge of disconnected themes and proposals. Devoted to domestic issues, the first half of the speech barely alluded to the war in which we are engaged. The discussion of taxes — the proposal to make his tax cuts permanent, the vow of no new taxes, the request that those who support higher taxes send their checks and money orders to the IRS — was the highlight of the first half.

“But would an average citizen watching the first half of the speech even understand the subjects the president was addressing in such a telegraphic style? Earmarks, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, No Child Left Behind, the Doha Round, clean energy technology (including advanced battery technology!), greenhouse gases, global climate change, increasing government funding for science, the prohibition of cloning, the confirmation of judges, charitable choice. As Churchill said of the dessert he asked to be removed, this pudding lacked a theme.

“Indeed, the themeless first half of the speech belied the seriousness of the foreign policy issues addressed in the second half of the speech. Here President Bush took justifiable pride in the surge/counterinsurgency strategy that has produced incredible progress on the battlefield in the course of a year. In an act of magnanimity that his opponents will never reciprocate, he confined his derogation of the defeatists in the chamber with him to a single sentence: “When we met last year, many said containing the violence was impossible.”

“In year seven of the war against the United States, however, President Bush did not even name the enemy:

“We are engaged in the defining ideological struggle of the 21st century. The terrorists oppose every principle of humanity and decency that we hold dear. Yet in this war on terror, there is one thing we and our enemies agree on: In the long run, men and women who are free to determine their own destinies will reject terror and refuse to live in tyranny.

But what does our enemy believe in? Surely something more was called for.”  

THIS JUST IN: Some of National Review’s symposium on the SOTU is more in line with my own more positive reaction.