February 2, 2005

The State of the Union speech.

My dinner ended in time to catch the State of the Union speech live. I haven't been simulblogging, in part because I've been simul-folding-the-laundry and simul-taking-a-bath. Generally, I think Bush sounds strong and confident, giving one of his better performances.

I listened to the long section on reforming Social Security, and I have no idea whether some big change is needed now as opposed to just making up the shortfalls with increased taxing as needed, and I have no idea, if I assume some big change is needed now, whether these private accounts represent any special prospect of curing the problem. The proposal seems to be more of a policy preference for how to structure benefits, not a way to restore financial stability to the system. I did note that when Bush assured "older workers," that he defined "older workers" with an age break that just barely left me out.
I have a message for every American who is 55 or older: Do not let anyone mislead you. For you, the Social Security system will not change in any way.

For younger workers, the Social Security system has serious problems that will grow worse with time.

So that kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I'm one of the "younger workers"?

I noticed that Bush played off two groups of lawyers. Tort lawyers must beware: he's planning to cut into your livelihood. But he reached out to criminal defense lawyers:
Because one of the main sources of our national unity is our belief in equal justice, we need to make sure Americans of all races and backgrounds have confidence in the system that provides justice. In America we must make doubly sure no person is held to account for a crime he or she did not commit - so we are dramatically expanding the use of DNA evidence to prevent wrongful conviction. Soon I will send to Congress a proposal to fund special training for defense counsel in capital cases, because people on trial for their lives must have competent lawyers by their side.

Of course, there is more to criminal defense fairness than DNA evidence, but this section of the speech was pro-lawyer, not usual lawyer-bashing.

It's very touching when the President introduces Safia Taleb al-Suhail:
One of Iraq's leading democracy and human rights advocates is Safia Taleb al-Suhail. She says of her country, "we were occupied for 35 years by Saddam Hussein. That was the real occupation. 'Thank you to the American people who paid the cost' but most of all to the soldiers." Eleven years ago, Safia's father was assassinated by Saddam's intelligence service. Three days ago in Baghdad, Safia was finally able to vote for the leaders of her country - and we are honored that she is with us tonight.

She stands and holds her fingers up in the peace/victory sign, then rotates it around into a single index finger, the inkable voter's Finger of Democracy. Later, Bush introduces the parents of Marine Corps Sergeant Byron Norwood, who was killed in Iraq. Norwood's mother, Janet, is standing right behind al-Suhail and, at one point, the Iraqi woman turns around and embraces the American woman. The embrace goes on for a long time, and we imagine al-Suhail is thanking Janet Norwood for what her son gave to the Iraqi people. This long, symbolic embrace leaves a deep impression, beyond any words in the speech.

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