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Bush: SOU Speech again « Previous | |Next »
February 2, 2003

There is a very good analysis of the domestic side of the President Bush's State of Union Speech Bush Strikes Out then Hits Home Run.The domestic agenda is governed by the compasionate conservatism which we heard so much about during the Presidential campaign. I didn't take this compassionate conservatism side of things very seriously, as I read Bush as a Big Oil man into hard line neo-liberalism + national security state + moral conservatism-Christian style.

When I initially read Bush's State of Union Speech I found the big budget expansion scenario hard to take seriously---tax cuts, welfare spending, environment and military expansion for the war on terror=a whopping budget deficit with sluggish economy, declining consumer spending and a stock market on the skids. I didn't pay any more attention cos it was very much a guns and butter budget I just skimmed it.

I thought this is political dreaming designed to shore up domestic support for the Bush administration on domestic issues---it's supply side economc policies going to get the economy moving and unemployment down. For a liberal New York Times account, See Paul Krugman's A Credibility Problem.

For more favourable responses to G Bush's State of Union speech see the admiring Andrew, who says that Bush's

"...domestic concerns seem to me motivated by a decency and a compassion I cannot but respect. As someone with HIV, I listened to his words about AIDS and found my throat catching. This is a Republican president, and yet he sees the extraordinary pain and anguish and death that this disease has caused and is still causing....I was also gratified and relieved by his proactive moves on the environment. A pro-growth, technologically-driven environmentalism should be a central plank of modern conservatism. Bush went some way toward establishing that. He needs to do more. But there was something else here - the glimmers of a real core of compassionate conservatism".

For another favourable conservative reaction, see the piece by Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal Online called The Right Man. Noonan says:

"It was the speech of a practical idealist, practical in that it dealt directly with crucial and immediate challenges and addressed them within a context of what is possible, and idealistic in that it applied the great American abstractions--freedom, justice, independence--to those challenges. The speech was held together by a theme of protectiveness. We must now more than ever, and for all the current crisis, continue as a uniquely protective people. We must protect the vulnerable and troubled--the young with parents in prison, the old with high prescription costs, workers battered by taxes, victims of late-term abortions, a continent dying of AIDS. In foreign policy we must protect ourselves and the world from those who would harm us with massive, evil weapons.

The theme held both halves of the speech together, and so they cohered and supported each other....The speech was unrelentingly serious, and assumed a seriousness in its audience. It assumed also a high degree of personal compassion and courage on the part of those watching. And so it was subtly rousing without being breast-beating, flag-waving or cheap. It was something."

As I said, I skipped the compassionate conversatism and went straight to the foreign relations part of the speech----the case for war. It was the assumptions underpining the national security side of things that I was interested in, not the case for war with Iraq per se. I have little concern with that anymore. The US is going to war. It wants the war. It is going to get the war. And it says that God is on its side as it represents the forces of good fighting the forces of evil.

I was concerned with what the new pax America in the 21st century would like:the way it repudiated international liberalism that has been concerned to help bring about a more cooperative world order based on the profound impact of globalization. The concern has been with global governance to regulate world affairs to ensure a secure, just and democratic world order--- as exemplified in the report by the Commission of Global Governance Our Global Neighbood. The global ciivc ethic of this international liberalism is instinctively repudiated by Bush-style Republicanism in the name of a world of self-seeking nation-states seeking power and control in an anarchic world.

For a New York Times liberal response to this Hobbesian view of the international affairs where might is right, see Flogging the French

So my interpretation of Bush's State of Union Speech did not bother to work through the speech and connect the two parts. But, of course there are two faces to a superpower: the domestic and the foreign and both have enormous impacts on small, regional nation-states such as Australia.

Why did I so quickly dismiss the speech on budget grounds the first time round? Economics 101, of course. As everyone knows Economics 101 teaches you that, as we live in a world of scarce resources, so we cannot have guns and buter. There has to be a tradeoff: a choice has be made. What Bush was saying was that America does not need to make choices: it is beyond the simplistic economics of 101.

Is this the first glimmering of the new America as an imperial power?

For a savage, ironic connecting of the domestic and the foreign parts of Bush's State of the Union Speech see Bush Admits Invasion Plans Driven by Hydrogen This is a long way from Andrew Sullivan's Bush reworking a Kennedy-style liberalism into a compassionate conservatism as a way of governing the country.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:06 AM | | Comments (1)


Any analysis of this situation ought to take into account Milton Friedman's article.