Like The Super Bowl For Political Junkies

Yes, I’ll be liveblogging the State of the Union address tonight. I’m that crazy dedicated. I may even try the VodkaPundit method of having a few, ahem, adult beverages at the same time. Although, I really doubt my liver would last it through the first 20 minutes if I tried this.

What does Bush need to say tonight? I’m with Jeff Goldstein when he says that Bush’s ratings decline is largely due to passivity in the face of relentless Democratic negativism. Bush’s base, and I’m certainly part of that, was rightly pissed at Bush’s idiotic selection of Harriet Miers, his inadequate handling of Hurricane Katrina, and most of all his apparent unwillingness to get out in front of this war. The biggest mistake a politician can make is to let his or her enemies take the political initiative, and Bush has done that. When he strikes back on the war, when he lays it straight to the American people, his numbers go up.

On domestic issues, Bush has also ceded the initiative. The numbers for the economy are relatively healthy even despite a weak fourth quarter. Unemployment remains low. Productivity remains high. The Dow is above 10,000 again. Yet people’s perceptions of the economy are uniformly negative because the media has shaped that perception. People are relatively content with their position, but they’ve been convinced that everyone else is miserable. The best political communicators, like Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton had the ability to inspire the nation. Bush isn’t in the league of either, but he can revive his “ownership society” agenda that was utterly dropped in 2005 and actually try and defend it this time. For instance, the Republicans made a key mistake in the Social Security reform battle – they pained it as a crisis, then they never fought for it. If it was a crisis, why wasn’t it at the top of the agenda? The Republicans let the Democrats and pressure groups like the AARP define the situation with silly attack ads and disingenuous arguments. Had the GOP stuck to its guns, been unified, and not backed off, Social Security reform would have likely passed. Instead, they got distracted and lost the issue – making it that much harder to revive it later. This nation needs to reform its entitlement systems – not just Social Security, but Medicaid and Medicare as well. If it can’t be done when the GOP has a majority in both houses of Congress and controls the White House, then the GOP has a serious problem.

That’s what President Bush needs to do. He needs to both put himself above the fray and set forth an agenda. The American people are rightly sick and tired of the constant and idiotic partisanship in Washington. They’re sick and tired of the constant sniping, the stupid attacks, the constant negativity, and the corruption on both sides of the aisle. While Bush’s approvals are weak (although Rassmussen has them at 50%, which seems to be a bit of an outlier), the approval ratings for Congress are abysmal. Bush needs to come out in favor of limiting earmarks, enforcing fiscal discipline, and cutting government fraud and waste. He needs to challenge Congress to do better and pass an agenda for the American people rather than shoving more pork into the system.

This will be one of the more critical speeches of Bush’s tenure in office. The war is at a crucial juncture in which the fighting has died down, but we still have a considerable amount of work to do. Bush has an uphill climb in restoring his agenda to the public forefront after a year of continuous Democratic attacks. He has a press that hates him with the fire of a thousand suns and will spin everything towards the negative. He faces a Democratic Party that is coming off the rails and an uncertain Republican leadership.

Bush is at his best when he’s getting down to the heart of the matter. He’s at this best when he’s connecting with the American people. Last year’s SOTU had the indelible image of an Iraqi mother and an American mother who both suffered greatly in this war reaching out to each other in a show of solidarity – one of the best SOTU moments in recent history. Bush needs to continually remind us all that we are still at war, we still have challenges ahead, but the way to win both abroad and at home is not by engaging in partisan attacks, but by working together as Americans.

President Bush came into office promising to be a “uniter, not a divider”, but events have left this country more divided than ever. The hatred from the left is palpable, the right is often clueless, and the American people are sick and tired of an increasingly dysfunctional political system that sees two sides fighting like cranky two-year-olds. Someone has to stand above the fray, and Bush has that opportunity tonight. We’ll see if he’s able to make the best of it.

3 thoughts on “Like The Super Bowl For Political Junkies

  1. Ouch… isn’t the point of a drinking game to get a pleasant buzz, not poisoned?

    (Not that I need a drinking game to have an excuse to get trashed while watching a Bush speech; he makes me want to hit the bottle enough…)

  2. Has this President not stayed above the fray??? In my opinion he has shown remarcable restraint in the face of an enourmous and constant barrage of baseless accusations, personal attacks, and mockery.
    Bush has not been one to use the bully pulpit and it has damaged him greatly especially within the GOP.
    If there is one topic that I would like Bush to seriously tackle is illegal immigration, but I doubt he’ll hammer on it.

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