Monday, January 22, 2007

Why this years SOU isn't very important

I expect a major theme of various news outlets going forward to focus on the importance of the Presidents upcoming state of the union address. The standard line will approximately follow the construct of "this is one of the most important speeches President Bush will ever give. This is his final chance to speak to the American people and try to save his floundering Presidency."

I disagree with this logic. I contend that the only way this years state of the union address goes down in history as significant beyond typical such occasions is if the President takes this opportunity to denounce the strategy he steadfastly clings to in pursuing the war in Iraq. I would be amazed if the President did that, so I fully expect reaction to the speech from the nation to be ho hum.

The number one issue on the collective mind of the nation is Iraq. The state of the union speech as commonly understood does not focus on a particular issue. Thus, I don't believe the President can be charged with trying to change the subject when he rolls out his initiatives on health care and nuclear power and what not. However, the issue the nation is focused upon will be the 800 pound gorilla in the speech, and the President will not be announcing anything beyond what we already know about his approach to that gorilla.

There can be no question that the Presidents credibility on the Iraq issue is a shambles. The vast majority of respondents in poll after poll reflect the opinion that the President is not trustworthy or honest, and this feeling can be directly attributed to his fantasy based outlook and resulting pronouncements on the war in Iraq. Thus, the nation will view the state of the union with a heavy dose of well earned scepticism, and if the President follows the script on Iraq there will be nothing to indicate that he is deserving of any other attitude.

In order to make this speech important, the President has to go off the reservation on his Iraq policy. To me the most important speech this President has made was his address to the nation a couple of weeks ago spelling out his change of course in Iraq. That speech was not well recieved, precisely because of the Presidents inability to let go of his fantasy based policy. He announced a change of course that was not really a change at all. That speech was his chance to signal a determination to turn around a disastrous policy based upon the recommendations of the Baker/Hamilton Iraq Study Group. When the President announced his determination to carry on as he has been the entire while, he lost that chance, and that to me was the important speech.

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