Although candid in its delivery and earnest in its intent, the real story of the eighth and final State of the Union Address in President Bush’s presidency was much more about what wasn’t said then what was.
By entirely avoiding, or at best paying uninspired lip service to, absolutely critical issues such as: the imminent collapse of entitlement programs like Social Security; the need to more aggressively confront the epicenter of Islamic extremism in Tehran; and the neglected responsibility of educating and reminding the American people of the individual and collective sacrifices they will all have to make going forward if we are to beat back the seemingly endless tides of terror and jihad, the President exhibited all the tendencies and characteristics of typical modern Republican “leadership” that have driven loyal Conservatives out of their supply-side, Reagan-loving minds for 7 years.
I’ve been a registered Republican, staunch Conservative, and rabid opponent to Liberalism in all its Socialistic forms since the voting age of 18. George W. Bush was “my guy” in 2000 (before it became popular for all of those two months in late 2001 for even Saturday Night Live to cheer him), and I supported Bush even more ardently in 2004 when he ran against the Democrats worst nominee for President since 1984 when Walter Mondale lost 49 of 50 states to Ronald Wilson Reagan.Trust me when I say that my reserved plot of land in “Bush Country” is not in danger of being revoked. But when I look at and listen to the man, to our 43rd President, to the one world leader who after and since 9/11 has been resolutely unwilling to flinch in the face of unimaginable pressure, I see a handful of important contradictions and shortcomings in his presidency that have become more and more apparent since his re-election in 2004. The reason these let-downs sting the soul of a true Conservative more than most is precisely because of how much we believed and shared in his visionary policies post-9/11 and pre-November 2004.
A prime example of what I’m talking about is the President’s inability to bring about Social Security reform. The debate over whether or not Social Security is in need of reforming was settled long ago by the crippling entitlement strings President’s such as FDR and LBJ and Democratically-controlled Congresses between 1940-1994 lassoed the American people with. In the land and time where sane people reside, the only thing that has been left for Congress and the White House over the past twenty years to decide has been which course of action is most feasible and appropriate for our elected representatives to take in regards to how exactly Social Security should be re-tooled.
Bush ran both in 2000 and 2004 on a platform that included Social Security reform based on private accounts in which Americans would invest the same money that would have otherwise gone to the Federal government’s untenable “pay-as-you-go” current system. The rate of return, on average, for a tax-payer paying into Social Security his entire working, adult life is at best 1.5%. The private accounts, already working in countries such as
Social Security by 2018 will be running a deficit and will be forced to start collecting on the IOU’s they’ve accumulated over the years by lending their surplus budgetary income out to willing recipients. More than $60 billion of the $575 billion allotted for Social Security last year was lent out to other governmental agencies and pet-projects of Congressional members seeking re-election. I’m no Financial Planner, but something doesn’t sound quite right about such a policy. Why wouldn’t any surpluses be invested to start hedging our bets against Social Security’s collapse? Experts say that by 2040 the entire Social Security system will be bankrupt and expenditures on the entitlement program will comprise the entire balance of the Federal government’s budget. Wow.
So what does Bush do about all this after his momentous victory on
Nearly 70% of Americans, not just Republicans, want private accounts to invest their own tax money in so that their retirement will be spent in sunny weather sipping umbrella-clad drinks, not standing open-palmed outside the Capitol Building asking for a handout to make ends meet. Why in the world with six years of a Republican dominated Congress could this President not push through a plan that would prevent the inevitable catastrophic fiscal events that are unambiguously looming in our country’s economic future? Why Monday night did the President not present this case again to the people who need to understand it more than any other: the American people?
And this gets to the heart of George W. Bush’s biggest problem as Commander-in-Chief: lack of effective communication. He has great ideas, he champions worthy causes, and sees the world and all its dangers more decisively clear than any other President or Prime Minister on the planet; but it has become clear that Bush lacks either the ability or willingness to persist in educating, and then constantly reminding, the American people of why they should listen to what he has to say.
Monday night was also Bush’s chance to drop the verbal hammer on the maniacal regime in Iran, as well as it was the perfect time and place to responsibly remind the Free World that the fight against Islamo-fascism will require our collective moral will to be strengthened and resolute.
If Iran is a real threat, as every credible source left tells us, Mr. President, then why on God’s green earth would you throw a mere handful of sentences of decidedly non-confrontational rhetoric at the most dangerous government on the planet? Why is this same man who once told the world that they were either “with us, or with the terrorists” now avoiding the discussion of the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism altogether? Better still, if the National Intelligence Estimate released late in 2007 thats says Iran "likely" put part of their nuclear program on hold in 2003 is to believed, then why didn't the President remind the American people of the neglected part in that same report that said if Iran did cease its illegal activities, it did so under pressure from US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan? (You know, a huge part of the reason Bush appropriately argued for war with Iraq in the first place...)
This fight against radical jihad isn’t going away when George Bush leaves office next January. It isn’t “his” fight; it is ours. Every single American citizen is, for better or worse, involved in the great ideological struggle of the 21st century. Bush has been consistent in this message, but far too infrequent in delivering it. We need to be reminded on a daily basis that we have real enemies, and that
Ronald Reagan was dubbed the Great Communicator because he could make the inaccessible, accessible for millions of Americans who wanted to go to sleep at night knowing that their President understood what was going on and cared enough to keep the public informed. For more than twenty years before he became President, Reagan utilized television, radio addresses, and thousands of public speeches to present the same anti-Communist, small government, low taxes, strong national defense message that he eventually rode to consecutive terms as Commander-in-Chief on.
Bush’s speech Monday night was a reminder that while he has done his best, and considerably far more than either Al Gore or John Kerry could even have dreamed of had they won, he will never be considered the great President he could have been had his communication skills been as acute and refined as his moral clarity and courage.