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January 20, 2004
The Captain, Unedited: Thoughts on the SOTU Speech

For tonight, I will be posting as I watch the State of the Union address President Bush will give to Congress. I'll update this particular post as the coverage on C-SPAN continues, perhaps even mixing in comments from the First Mate, who will try her best to stay awake for the entire event ... NOTE: You can read the entire speech at Blogs for Bush. And welcome to all Instapundit readers.

7:34 - Oddly, a former Congressional clerk, Donnald Anderson, is being interviewed by the CSPAN hostess, explaining the layout of Capitol building. Fascinating (yawn) stuff! No wonder C-SPAN tops the prime-time ratings. At least it's not Peter Jennings.

7:41 - They're filing into the Senate, slowly, mostly dawdling by the door. Or maybe they're filing out. Yep, they're leaving ... well, that was really fascinating, too.

7:45 - They're now filing into the House chamber, and Cheney and Hastert are at the podium. A brief spatter of applause for something that must be occurring off camera. The First Mate complains that this sounds boring (she's blind, so she can't see the action-packed scene unfolding in front of us).

8:00 - Getting down to business now. I've always admired the procedures, processes, and traditions of Congress. It's very impressive to see the announcements and the applause as each dignitary is introduced by title only.

8:07 - President Bush is introduced to universal applause, which is gracious, although of course some people are more enthusiastic than others. He's taking his time, shaking hands and greeting members of Congress. Again, it's an almost comforting display of manners after the past several months of character assassination on the campaign trail. You'd almost get the impression that we're all here to work together and find solutions to this nation's problems.

8:13 - Starting off with national security and a hat-tip to the men and women of the armed forces, and then right to the economy ... a good start, as is the challenge of staying the course, both at home and abroad. Standing ovation #1. Saint Paul from Fraters Libertas posts a comment that makes me laugh out loud, and lose my place. Thanks, pal.

I'm going to put the rest in extended body post ...

8:19 - Challenging Congress to renew the Patriot Act: definitely on the campaign trail and not shrinking from his own record. Of course, only half of Congress applauded, despite the wide approval given to the legislation two years ago. Impressive. I'm a bit surprised he led with this, but he has been bold all through his first term, and he isn't backing down now.

8:24 - Bush introduces the current Iraqi Governing Council President, Adnan Pachachi, as he wrapped up his status report on Iraq and Afghanistan. I would have liked to see Bush make the case again for military action in Iraq -- but he made it clear when discussing Libya and why diplomacy worked with Gaddafi. Words must be credible, and no one will doubt American credibility again. UPDATE: Instapundit has the correct quote, and a link to something very similar on his blog from a couple of days ago.

8:30 - Now I'm reading Saint Paul's extensive comments instead of watching the darned speech! Hilarious. This guy should get a blog. Oh, wait, never mind.

8:32 - The world without Saddam Hussein is a better and safer place. Outstanding line. I almost stood up myself. Even better: America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country.

8:37 - First specific legislative announcement: doubling the National Endowment of Democracy's budget, and for the first time he turns his attention to domestic issues. Almost the entire first half-hour was taken up by foreign policy and national security, where he is strongest. Expect him to return to these themes towards the end to finish strong.

8:42 - Saint Paul notes: "A Republican president bragging about a 36% increase in Federal spending on education. I join the Democrats in sitting on my hands for that one. If only I were bloated, I could do a Ted Kennedy impression." Yup, that's about right.

8:45 - Excellent explanation of Congress' choices on the tax issue: if they don't act to make the cuts permanent, it will equate to a tax increase. Expect that line on the campaign trail, too.

8:48 - "Focus on priorities" - that means prepare for targeted spending cuts. After increasing education spending 36% over three years, you'd hope so! Now he's rolling directly into immigration. Note the distinct lack of enthusiasm for this program.

8:53 - Tort reform for medical lawsuits: a poke in the eye to John Edwards? But he didn't follow it up with any specifics, which is a little disappointing. Bush wants to support the private system of health care instead of a single-payer government-run system. Yeah, that's news.

8:58 - I am a bit surprised that Bush's support for abstinence programs got a standing ovation not only from Bush's party but from a significant number on the other side of the aisle. Rolling right through that to marriage and its definition, he draws a line in the sand: if activist judges continue redefining marriage, then he will support a constitutional amendment to define it for good. He followed up with a quick line about treating individuals with compassion, but I wish his statement had included a stronger statement on behalf of those who do not fit within that definition. Bush signaled that he will stand with the traditional, religious right on these issues. Interesting, but not terribly surprising.

9:04 - Cute child alert!!! Cute child alert!!! Okay, nice touch, but just a bit corny. Ashley, your message to our troops has been conveyed, and it's warmed the hearts of America. What the heck are you doing out of bed at this hour, young lady? Get right back in your bed and go to sleep!

9:06 - "May God continue to bless America," and George Bush finishes after a shorter SOTU speech, just under an hour. I am always a bit surprised at how well Bush can speak when reading from a prepared text. I think he did a good job tonight laying out the rest of the year, but what was missing was his vision for a second term. As a launch vehicle for his Presidential campaign, I think it fell short. At the start, he spoke about the dangers of going backwards, returning to past policies that left the US vulnerable to attack. I expected him to return to those themes at the end of the speech and give us a taste of what he has in mind for his second term, if re-elected.

Did you notice that Mars and the moon were never mentioned in this speech? I wonder why.

9:17 - Democratic response, with Tom Daschle and Nancy Pelosi, starts off with a reference to the armed forces and Pelosi's resume (ten years on intelligence committees). She's a worse speaker than Bush; she's nervous as hell. What's a "true international coalition" as opposed to one that includes dozens of other nations? Is France truth?

9:20 - "Politically connected firms like Halliburton" -- they're all politically connected, Congresswoman. Trust me.

9:23 - I'm sorry, but Pelosi's eyes look panicky to me. I almost expect her to tell us that we're getting very, very sleeeepyyyy ... Daschle is much more comfortable in front of the camera.

9:27 - Labelling all food products with their country of origin? This is an issue?

9:29 - So far, Daschle speaks in broad conceptual strokes but hasn't actually offered any specific proposals except labelling food with its country of origin.

9:31 - Daschle wants to live in a world where American power is respected and not resented. Power is always resented. If you don't know that, you're not a serious person.

9:37 - Ted Kennedy is being interviewed on C-SPAN, and he's almost incoherent. He's better on his impressions of Iowa. First Mate on Kennedy's assertion that people have radically different views in Iowa: "It's because he only spoke with Democrats!" Well ... yeah!

Overall, I'm moderately impressed with Bush's performance. He offered some specifics for the coming year, hammered on national security, but spent quite a bit of time on domestic priorities as well -- in fact, almost an equal split. We only had to deal with one "awww cute" story, so that's a plus. But Bush offered no broad vision for a second term; perhaps he felt that it would be inappropriate for a SOTU speech to do so. That may be a minor mistake.

As for the Democrats, Pelosi was perfectly awful, mostly in delivery but also in substance. Daschle was much better, the best speaker of the night, but offered nothing specific except one bizarre food-labeling program. If this is the best speech the DNC could write, then they are in deeeeeep trouble this year.

UPDATE: VodkaPundit was real-time blogging, too, but in over 30 separate posts. Start here and scroll down. Also Outside the Beltway, somewhat more cogently than me. Robert Prather at Insults Unpunished also live-blogged it. Patriot Paradox has an extensive analysis of the text, and likes what he sees.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 20, 2004 7:36 PM

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The address hasn't even happened yet and I'm already seeing news items about it in past tense. I know Washington leaks, but can't reporters just pretend? (1932CT) I'll be updating this post throughout the night. (2015CT) President Bush mentions the... [Read More]

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