Most Dismal State of the Union
January 28, 2003
By Mike McArdle
President Bush will deliver the State of the Union address.
Now, of course, Bush "delivers" the State of the Union about
the way the paperboy "delivers" your newspaper. Even his supporters
will realize that he had about as much insight into the speech
he will read as the kid on the bike had into the lead editorial
that he flings onto your lawn.
But even though his role in the address begins when they
fire up the teleprompter and ends when it runs out of words
even Bush must realize that the state of the union that he
at least theoretically presides over has rarely been more
dismal. The economy has settled into a malaise that may last
years. The country is divided by deep cultural and philosophical
differences that seem to split the nation in half. Polls show
that dissatisfaction in the direction of the country is the
highest it's been in years.
This is the country that the little man staring at the teleprompter
is trying to lead into what Bush apologist George Will euphemistically
calls an "optional" war, meaning I suppose that Will likens
the decision to kill maybe tens of thousands of innocent people
to the decision you make about the sound system on a new car.
You get the feeling that the Bushies share Will's view of
the coming optional conflict and deeply resent those that
are demanding that killing people be more important than your
SUV's CD changer. Those naysayers are actually demanding that
the administration demonstrate some that kind of threat exists
before they unleash a destructive force that could make the
world a more dangerous place for generations to come. Support
for this venture is eroding rapidly but the Bushies have apparently
decided to go to war anyway and hope that the rally round
effect will rescue them politically.
As precarious as the state of the union may be domestically
America has almost never been held in such little regard by
the international community. Just 16 months ago in the aftermath
of the September 11 attacks much of the world felt a solidarity
with Americans. Today the rest of the earth including some
of our most loyal long-time allies have begun to regard America
as the worlds pariah and the greatest threat to world peace.
One by one last week Americas longtime allies backed away
from Bush's ham-handed invasion plan/ oil grab. The Germans
said that there was no reason for a war. The French threatened
to veto any resolution for war in Security Council. The Russians
and Chinese echoed the sentiments of the Germans and French.
In an attempt to stop the bleeding and show that not every
country in the world is backing away from their boys crude
war for crude oil the administration said that numerous countries
were actually behind them, among them Italy. But before anybody
could even get off one of those jokes about legendary Italian
war heroes or military accomplishments the Italian government
responded with a "Not so fast" and said that they favored
no war without full UN backing. The administration still claims
numerous allies for its policy but apart from Tony the Poodle
they're as invisible as those weapons of mass destruction
that the war is supposed to be about.
And in Tony Blair's England the attitude toward Americans
is no different. Polls show that only 30 % of the British
support military action in Iraq and the number has been dropping
for months. A nasty British TV satire entitled "Between Iraq
and a Hard Place" portrays Bush as an addled brained clown
and American democracy as a convoluted system in which the
candidate with the most votes loses. The American military
is derided as using the British to supply "dead bodies". In
the north London theatre district a play called "The Madness
of George Dubya" plays to sellout crowds and depicts Bush
as a pajama-wearing teddy bear-toting child cowering in a
bunker as nuclear war erupts.
This isn't good natured light hearted satire . This is nasty
aggressive stuff and it's not coming just from the activist
left. To many ordinary Europeans Bush and by extension Americans
are increasingly seen as aggressive, arrogant and eager to
provoke a war to satisfy its insatiable oil consumption. The
inane Donald Rumsfeld remark about France and Germany being
the "old Europe" (this isn't the Europe I ordered, bring me
a new one) was just a reinforcement of the Ugly American image
that has already taken hold. Not since the Vietnam War (another
one of those optional wars) has the world had such a negative
view of America.
It is unlikely that those who are putting the finishing touches
on Bush's address care much about any of this or think that
it's important. War and budget busting tax cuts for the rich
are the only real policies they've ever had so expect more
of the same and more importantly expect the state of the union
next January to be even more grim than it is now.