The disastrous State of the Union

As President Bush took the podium last week to deliver his last State of the Union address before both houses of Congress, a television pundit commented that Bush, in an earlier meeting with the press, asked if he should wear a blue tie or red. An interesting question given the red states/blue states differences that have so divided our country and been exploited and exacerbated at every turn by this administration.

The President chose a blue tie. And not a subdued blue, but a bright blue. Considering his tenure, this sartorial statement likely qualifies as irony.

As Bush made his way into the chamber he seemed buoyed, in good spirits, shaking hands as he passed members of Congress, and slowly making his way to the podium. He seemed untouched by what has been seven years of missed opportunities, a foreign policy that is a train wreck, and a war that will cost more than a trillion dollars and will ripple through the lives of everyone who served, or loved someone who served, for decades to come. Many will never recover.

And yet, on more than one occasion, as the enthusiastic applause from the Republicans washed over him, the camera caught him not smiling, or nodding in appreciation, but chuckling, as if someone from stage left and below the dais had said something funny, an inside joke, which Bush enjoyed immensely. He seemed oblivious to the seriousness of the moment and the damage he will leave behind. Has someone always walked behind him, putting right what he has put wrong? Is that the narrative of his life?

How is it possible for this man to stand before Congress and the nation and deliver a State of the Union address as if he were serving up a happy meal?

The last seven years are strewn with missed opportunities and policies that have diminished us as a nation. Our military is broken, almost four thousand lives (and counting) have been lost, thousands grievously wounded, while our hard-earned tax dollars have been dropped into an abyss of corruption and mismanagement. Monies we desperately need, for there is so much to be done. And now the economy is moving ever closer to recession, and countless homes, sold without careful oversight, will fall into foreclosure.

The President's final appearance should have been shrouded in regret, almost funereal. And yet he was chuckling.

Of course, why worry? He will return to Crawford and his chainsaw and brush, surrounded by the Secret Service, where he can contemplate his library and speaking tour, where his nights will be uninterrupted by thoughts of the presidency he could have fashioned. He'll fish with his dad off of Hyannis Port, and golf midweek. And never look back, untouched by what could have been.

President Bush could have been the "compassionate conservative," as promised; instead, he chose to inject partisanship into all levels of government. He failed to use the good will lavished upon him post-9/11 &

a rare moment of unity and resolve.

Instead, he squandered it with a disastrous agenda called Iraq, rationalized by a circle of neo-cons who have also walked away. He allowed uncontrolled spending (his veto power holstered as bridges to nowhere were built), and only now is insisting he is a fiscal conservative. He ignored our broken health care system to the detriment of more than 47 million Americans.

He rejected funding an expansion of children's health care. He has never insisted on fine-tuning No Child Left Behind, but allowed it to implode. He has ignored our nation's crumbling infrastructure (schools, roads, bridges, water treatment plants, the electrical grid), in the same manner he has ignored the Gulf Coast (he made no mention of Katrina in this speech or the last), thus abandoning hundreds of thousands who wait, still, in a strange, hopeless, homeless purgatory.

His immigration proposal was shamelessly defeated by his own party, and he soon lost interest. It was a battle worth fighting. He didn't. Regarding global warming &

he played for time, resisting, dragging and stalling, calling into question the science. He rejected the Kyoto Protocol, insisting it was flawed, and offered no counter proposal. While fighting a two-billion-dollar-a-week war he pushed through tax cuts for the wealthy and encouraged Americans to go shopping. He insisted that thinking about the war was sacrifice enough.

The blue tie should have been black, his speech an elegy. Instead, he was chuckling. And the Republicans, his enablers, clapped and cheered while the Democrats sat silently, testimony to the blatant failure of this President to unite. E Pluribus Unum. Out of many, one. But not on this president's watch.

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