Ending on a Good Note
10:08: Fox is broadcasting the audio of members talking to the president. Cliff Stearns of Florida tells him the best line was "We did not vote for failure." I'd love a transcript of this; can't take it all down fast enough. One woman member--I think it's freshman Minnesota Republican Michele Bachmann--kisses Bush. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen tells Bush that "Jeb is my constituent now." Ralph Hall, the oldest member of the House, slaps Bush on the shoulder. Bush is schmoozing in the hall with Tom Harkin, who is very cordial. Russ Feingold is very pleasant.
Immediate post-speech thoughts:
Democrats were not as hostile as I thought they might be. Part of this is a response to the ceremonial nature of the occasion, and Bush played on this ably at various points in the speech.
10:04: Bush shakes hand with Pat Leahy, who will do his best to reject his major judicial nominees.
10:02: Hails America in the last paragraph. Hits a very good note. I'd like to quote it in full.
Time for the Heroes
10:01. Tommy Rieman. Used his body as a shield. Good recognition of a military hero. Silver Star. Rieman raises his hands, doesn't smile, looks just a bit sad. He's next to Lynne Cheney.
10:00: Wesley Autry. The subway hero. His quote is terrific. Big cheers. Autry does a thumbs up. Ronald Reagan started this recognition of hero citizens, and it's become a good tradition. Autry hugs the military officer next to him.
9:59: Baby Einstein founder Julie Aigner-Clark. Sold it to Walt Disney, $200 million business. Child safety videos.
This emphasis on charity givers is good stuff. It's a reminder that people with original ideas can achieve things that central planners almost always overlook.
9:58: Time for the gallery. Dikembe Mutombo. Coach John Thompson. Duty to share his blessings with others. "We're proud to call this citizen of the Congo a citizen of the United States of America." Mutombo, smiling broadly, joined in the applause.
9:57: Trade and debt relief. A possibly bipartisan cause: Charlie Rangel was for trade agreements with Africa.
9:56: Fight HIV/AIDS, especially in Africa. Applause from all. Gives Congress credit for funding drugs, and raised the number aided from 50,000 to 800,000 people.
Close Consultation in War on Terrorism
9:55: Conscience of the world to save the people of Darfur. I've wondered: Do some on the left who have raised this issue, I'm sure sincerely, want to see U.S. troops over there?
9:54: Will not allow the regime in Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. Applause, all on feet. Peace in the Holy Land. A sop to "world opinion," I'm afraid. Afghanistan: NATO. He's emphasizing the support we have in the world on these issues. A good reminder that this administration doesn't have a unilateral foreign policy.
9:53: Volunteer civilian reserve corps. This is something I hadn't heard of before (maybe just missed it). Does this mean we'll stop firing gay Arabic speakers?
9:52: Increase in Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 in next five years.
9:51: A generational struggle. Close consultation. Special Advisory Council on the War on Terror. We will share ideas. Probably should have been done long ago.
'Let Us Find Our Resolve'
9:50. Peroration. Nothing is more important, lessonsof September 11. Pelosi sits stony-faced. "We went into this largely united." "You did not vote for failure." "I ask you to give it a chance to work." Support the troops. All rise.
9:49: Emphasizes "make good on its commitments." "Best chance for success." On to the consequences of failure. Silence. Shia backed by Iran, Shia backed by al Qaeda. "A nightmare scenario." Chaos is their goal.
9:48: "Now it's time for their government to act. Iraqi leaders know our commitment is not open-ended." The optimist in me says that Bush and the Democrats are in effect, if not purposely, operating as the Good Cop and the Bad Cop to the Iraqi government.
9:47: "Let us find our resolve and turn events toward victory." Almost all Republicans and almost no Democrats rise. Plan "demands more from Iraqi leaders." A bow to those like Hillary Clinton who have criticized the Iraqi government. Not much reaction from the audience till the words "clear them out" inspire some clapping from Republicans.
'Sobered ... by the Enemy's Fierce Reaction'
9:44: "We have been sobered by the enemy's fierce reaction." A bit of narrative. McCain is either looking down or dozing: The latter would not be good. "Nearly 12 million Iraqis came out to vote . . . we never should forget." Republicans try to stimulate some applause; Democrats have none of it.
He's describing the attacks on democrats in Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq. Golden Mosque of Samarra. "Designed to provoke retaliation from Iraqi Shia, and it succeeded." He should have presented this narrative last spring and changed tactics then, as he's trying to now. Democrats are stony.
9:42: Decisive ideological struggle. "What every terrorist hates most is human freedom." We help ourselves by helping others who build free societies. "For the sake of our own security, we must." Republicans up; most Democrats remain seated.
9:40. Mentions Iran: good. Sunni and Shia extremists have the same wicked purposes. "I wish I could report to you that the dangers have ended. They have not."
This is strong stuff. Pat Leahy rises behind the Joint Chiefs to applaud.
Here Comes the Hard Part: Foreign Policy
9:39: "America is still at war." "Their radical vision." Now he gets specific: "Wahhabi extremists." Everyone very quiet now. Good: He's trying to force us to face what we do face. He's got to get people over the mindset that if we just leave Iraq we'll go back on holiday from history, and the Iraqis will go back to the kite-flying shown in Michael Moore's movie.
9:37: "Things that did not happen." A good reminder, which we all tend to lose sight of. Now specifics: good! A salute to "brave public servants." Cheers all around. Bush looks up, his lips pursed in that way he does.
9:35: Segue to protecting the nation. Here comes the hard part.
"We find ourselves debating." "We must take the fight to the enemy." Cheney rises first, then Pelosi. Whistles from the Repubs.
9:34: Judicial nominees. Repubs cheer. Demos silent.
9:33: Double current capacity of Strategic Petroleum Reserve. "America is on the verge of technological breakthroughs." He says the words: "global climate change." Weakish applause at first, then Democrats rise, Republicans do so after a pause.
Health Plans and Fuel Standards
9:32: Mandatory fuel standards. Five times current target by 2017. Pelosi stands to applaud. Modernize fuel economy
9:30: Dependent on foreign oil. "The way forward is through technology." Battery research. Clean diesel, biofuel. I get the feeling people aren't applauding very heartily here. "Progress through good policies in Washington and the workings of the market." Reduce gasoline usage by 20 percent in 10 years. Bipartisan applause.
9:29: "Tradition of the melting pot." Pretty quiet applause. "Without animosity and without amnesty." Pelosi claps. "So I can sign comprehensive immigration reform into law." Pelosi quickly stands to applaud.
9:28: The border. Temporary worker program. "Legal and orderly path." In Texas accent, "As a result they won't have to sneak in."
9:27: More bipartisan applause for associated health plans. Best healthcare decisions are made by patients and their doctors. Ron Wyden rises. Wyden is interested in something like the Bush healthcare proposals.
A Dour President
9:27: Need to expand health savings accounts. Cheney and Repubs applaud.
9:26: States that help cover the uninsured: federal funds for this.
9:23: Affordable and available healthcare. "For all other Americans, private health insurance is best." Tepid applause. Standard tax deduction available to all, $15,000 for families. More than 100 million will benefit from lower tax bills. Level the playing field: an excellent point, received in dead silence. Changing the tax code: Will they corral Charlie Rangel and Max Baucus after the speech?
9:22: "Children in failing schools have the right to choose something better." Bush looks pretty dour: no smiling here.
Congratulating the 'Democrat' Majority
9:21. Education. A good idea to start on domestic issues. The Democrats won't like much of what he says on foreign policy.
9:20. Take on entitlements. "We're failing in that duty." Silence. Kennedy is shown looking down, as if on a text. Fix Medicare and Medicaid and fix Social Security. Pretty mild applause. Don't expect this from this 110th Congress.
9:19: Earmarks. They're in committee reports: good point. I wonder what Breyer, who relies on committee reports, thinks of this. Cut the cost of earmarks in half: camera on McCain.
9:18: Three economic priorities. 1. Balance the federal budget. All rise. Without raising taxes. All rise again, with cheers from Republicans. Tepid applause on the budget. Just a thought: Pelosi (born 1940) is older than Cheney (born 1941).
9:17: "Willing to cross that aisle." Pelosi claps vigorously.
Bush hails the growing economy. 7.2 million new jobs, so far. Bush is speaking slowly and deliberately. Certainly more at ease than in his January 10 speech on the Iraq surge. He's better in front of a live audience.
9:16: "I congratulate the Democrat majority." He should have said Democratic. You should call people by the names they want to be called by.
Bush: 'Ready to Go?'
9:15: Pray for Senator Tim Johnson and Congressman Charlie Norwood.
9:14. Bush says he has his own high privilege of being the first president to begin his SOTU with the words "Madame Speaker." Then a graceful reference to her father. Well done.
9:13: Bush to Pelosi: "Ready to go?" Pelosi's intro was very precise and graceful. She's been practicing.
The President Presses the Flesh
9:10: Bush pauses to speak with Dennis Kucinich. Now Eliot Engel, who claims to reprent the most multiethnic district in the country. Now Bush is saying a cordial hello to Sheila Jakcson Lee. Now he's among Republican senators. Now the Joint Chiefs. Pretty spirited applause, ginned up mostly by the Republicans, I suppose, but the Democrats seem to be joining in heartily.
State of the Union: First Impressions
9 p.m.: I'm watching Brit Hume on Fox tell why Nancy Pelosi is wearing a different outfit than she was earlier today: she spilled chocolate on the first outfit.
Chief Justice Roberts is there, with Justices Kennedy, Breyer, and Alito.
The President's Cabinet minus one: Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Dennis Kucinich is on the aisle shaking hands. So is Dale Kildee, first elected in 1976, who has done this for years.