State Of The Union Liveblogging

The 2005 State of the Union address begins in roughly half an hour. The speech is expected to last around 45 minutes, probably closer to an hour when you get through the inevitable pauses for pomp and ceremony and applauses (well, applauses from the Republican side and icy glares or curt claps from the Democrats). Social Security is expected to be one of the biggest issues discussed by the President tonight, as Bush is pushing his Social Security reform plan. Iraq will also be a centerpiece of the foreign policy element of the speech tonight.

Bush is a horrible off-the-cuff speaker, but given the right prepared address he can reach some surprising rhetorical moments. The bar by which every Bush address is measured is his September 20, 2001 address to the Congress which will be measured as one of the greatest pieces of American oratory and the first great piece of oratory of the 21st Century. I’m not counting on Bush exceeding that high, but Bush seems to have found his sure rhetorical ground. Expect the word “freedom” to be making frequent appearances throughout the address.

The liveblogging will be in the extended entry, and after the speech I’ll be doing the usual final word and blogosphere reaction posts as well.

7:50PM CST: The House Chamber is packed as the President gets ready to head onto the House floor for this annual speech. CSPAN 1 has the speech; CSPAN 2 has Mark Dayton bloviating at the Chertoff confirmation hearings, with a very attractive woman looking very bored in the background.

7:55PM CST: Speaker Hastert is at his place, along with the Vice President. The speech should begin shortly. Hillary Clinton is shaking a few hands, looking well after her illness earlier in the week.

7:58PM CST: Speaker Hastert has ordered the House to order, and the President will soon be escorted into the House chamber.

8:05PM CST: The President is now entering the floor of the House after the usual parade of various dignitaries has finished.

8:06PM CST: Well, we have a new direction for the second term. Instead of the usual cornflower blue tie, President Bush is wearing a red silk Washington power tie. Shiela Jackson-Lee looked visibly nervous while shaking the President’s hand.

8:08PM CST: Senator Kerry looks very annoyed. That warms my heart to no end. Hastert introduces the President.

8:09PM CST: The President reminds us all that many countries have embraced democracy in the last few years. Afghanistan, Ukraine, Palestine, and Iraq, in only the last few weeks. A historic time indeed.

Bush seems to speak directly to the aging Baby Boomer population in his first few minutes of the speech — and he seems at ease with himself, markedly different than he was during the debates with Senator Kerry. Bush lists why the economy is doing well, followed by a call to continue the economic policies set in the first term — hopefully that doesn’t include out of control spending — and sure enough Bush launches into a reminder that cutting spending is important — along with a promise to halve the deficit by 2009. Can he deliver on those ambitious goals?

Bush promises to keep the rate of spending growth below inflation and cut unnecessary programs. He’s making a call for fiscal restraint — oddly enough that’s territory the Democrats have been trying to stake for themselves. If Bush can get a bipartisan consensus on spending reforms it will help the economy immensely.

8:15PM CST:: Bush is hitting on the themes that we’ve seen from him before. Education, Pell Grants, tort reform. I have a feeling that Bush’s line about frivolous asbestos claims will be met by sob stories from the Democrats.

Making health care affordable was an instant applause line, which should worry those who truly believe in limited government. Health savings accounts and tax breaks will get the conservatives, while the Democrats will like the rural medicine initiatives. The question is, will these reforms lead to more consumer control and choice or more regulation and higher costs?

8:18PM CST: Bush is making a pitch for energy reform — including nuclear energy. We really need to cut our dependency on foreign oil, and I wish Bush would hit on the nuclear issue more. Nuclear power is safe, clean, and would dramatically reduce our dependency on foreign sources of energy.

This speech is so far a laundry list of programs. I’m not much for that style. Still, Bush seems fluid and at ease.

8:20PM CST: Ugh, Bush’s non-amnesty amnesty. A program that neither conservatives nor liberals can really get behind. Personally, I see it as a horrible policy direction for the President to take.

8:21PM CST: Now Bush gets to the real meat of the domestic policy section of the speech: Social Security reform.

Bush wants to make very sure that seniors know that their current Social Security benefits won’t change. I doubt the AARP will stop their opposition to reform, however.

Bush lays out the basic case for Social Security reform, why we have a crisis. It’s old news to most of us, but it’s important that Bush gets this message across to those who don’t know what the situation really is. I like how Bush gives the figures for future years and why we must act now. The Democrats boos at the 2042 figure will not go over well, it makes them seem petty and partisan. If I were Bush, I would have quoted Bill Clinton’s own words on the impending crisis in Social Security. I do like how Bush related the impending crisis to more individual concerns like college planning — that helps people understand why reform is necessary now.

Well, Tim Penny gets a shout-out from the President…

8:26PM CST: Bush lays it on the table — “our children’s retirement security is more important than partisan politics.” The Democrats’ boos seem even more petty now.

8:28PM CST: Kerry did well with 18-29 year-old voters. However, I think Bush can sell the idea of Social Security to younger workers — they’re part of the Internet generation, and the idea of investment is commonplace to them. The Democratic scare tactics on Social Security seem quite antiquated in an investment society like 21st Century America.

Bush reminds the country that federal workers get this kind of choice — so why shouldn’t the general population have the same benefits?

8:31PM CST: Now Bush gets into the issue of values. I’m not a big fan of the Federal Marriage Amendment, but that managed to get some applause.

This part of the speech seems quite unfocused. Bush goes from medical research to the role of the judiciary. These are all good issues, but a good speech needs some kind of theme running through it to tie all those disparate elements together. Bush is doing well, but I’d like to see something to help tie this laundry list of policies together.

As Stephen Green snarks:

So, no selling kidneys of aborted fetuses to gay couples. Or did I conflate a few things?


8:36PM CST: Bush is calling for the Ryan White Act to be restarted. Sadly, I don’t think a lot of people in the audience remember who Ryan White was — it would be nice for Bush to have explained the significance of the Act for just a moment.

This is really becoming a laundry list. Granted, I’m more into foreign than domestic policy, but there’s a lot of initiatives and goals here, but nothing to tie them all together. Somehow I have a feeling that Bush has lost his audience.

Nice allusion to FDR with the “freedom from fear” line. If you’re going to steal, steal from some of the best.

8:39PM CST: I’d really like for Bush to show some resolve on the issue of the borders — when Hillary Clinton is cutting you off on the right on that issue you know you’re on the wrong side.

8:40PM CST: Now we get to the foreign policy section. We get the usual bit about staying on the offensive. I’d like to see him tie in why democratization helps us win this war — that’s the absolutely critical argument for why our actions in this war are the right ones, and Bush always seems to dance around that crucial argument rather than hammering it every time as he should.

8:42PM CST:

OK, now Bush starts to get into the real meat of the issue. Bush needs to continually remind this nation of why democracy and freedom stand in opposition to terrorism — bringing in the al-Zarqawi line was a good one.

Ending tyranny in our world? Sorry, Mr. President, but we cannot emmanetize the eschaton. I’m sure Bill Buckley was cringing at that line.

8:45PM CST: Indeed, we are seeing a new wave of democracy and human liberty. It would have been good for the President to have brought up the powerful symbol of the Iraqi finger stained with purple ink — an image that will be an enduring one for some time.

Bush argues that a free and independent Palestine living in democracy side-by-side with Israel is “within reach.” I wish I could believe him, but years of racist indo
ctrination and religious radicalism in Palestine can’t be erased by a piece of paper, and that’s the biggest block to peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Bush is pushing the Saudis to democratize. Good for him.

Bush just put pressure on Syria. I have a feeling that Bush is going to be pushing very hard on the Syrians over the next few years. Syria is probably the leading state sponsor of terrorism, and we need to push the Assad regime into getting tough against terrorism rather than being an implicit sponsor of it.

Bush just spoke directly to the people of Iran. A very, very good line. I hope this gives hope to the Iranian pro-democracy movement.

8:49PM CST: Bush now speaks of Iraq. I haven’t seen any polls on the issue of Iraq after the elections, but I’d imagine Bush’s approval rating on Iraq has shot up this week in the aftermath of the elections.

Some members of Congress have stained their finger purple in solidarity with the people of Iraq. Good for them.

TThe Iraqi people have earned our respect. The bravery of 8 million Iraqis in literally giving terrorism the finger has shown the world that they have embraced a better life for themselves through democracy and liberty.

I’m sure Bush just mangled the name of that Iraqi woman.

She raises her finger as well, although there’s no ink visible. Will a raised index finger become the “V for Victory” of our time.

Bush nails the fundamental issue here – the “insurgency” does not represent the will of the people of Iraq. The “insurgency” has lost, and they have lost decisively.

8:55PM CST: History seems to be on the President’s side in a way they have not since the fall of Saddam nearly two years ago. The fates of the United States and Iraq are now intertwined, and we will not abandon the people of Iraq. Bush even gets in an implicit dig at the Ted Kennedy ideology of artificial timetables. We won’t pull out of Iraq in dishonor, we will leave having accomplished our goals and given the Iraqis a chance to succeed. They deserve that, and we have an obligation to give it to them.

8:58PM CST: Something I’ve always noticed about the President — when he speaks of the sacrifices of the troops, you can see the emotion in his eyes. There is no doubt that he cares deeply for our troops, and honors their sacrifice.

The image of the mother of the fallen soldier hugging a woman from the nation her son died to protect is truly a powerful one, and speaks more eloquently about the new relationship between the United States and Iraq than words ever good. A truly beautiful and poignant moment.

9:02PM CST: Bush ends with a call to freedom, one of the signatures of his time in office and a value he’s stood for throughout. More thoughts in just a moment.

9:14PM CST: I’m watching the Democratic response to the SOTU. Harry Reid seems like a slightly less craggy Tom Daschle. Reid’s call for a “Marshall Plan for America” just sounds idiotic — as if the US is the same as post-World War II Europe. Reid comes off as painfully boring and negative compared to the positive vision of the Bush speech. The Democrats still don’t seem to get it — petulance is not policy.

Jonah Goldberg is gonna flip — Harry Reid just brought up his favorite movie.

The Democrats would be first in line to work with him? Yeah, and monkeys will fly out of my ass.

Reid claims that reforming Social Security would be equivalent of a 40% cut — talk about fuzzy math. The forced joke about Los Vegas was offputting.

Nancy Pelosi needs to fire the doc who did her Botox. She looks like she’s caught in a permanent look of fright. Pelosi’s call for the US to telegraph exactly when we’re going to leave is completely tone deaf. It’s like the elections never happened to these people — completely and utterly foolish. Not one word on the elections so far. It’s like they’re stuck in the past — then again, they are. Note to the Democrats: next year, put on Barack Obama, not these dinosaurs. This is pathetic.

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