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The Most Dismal State of the Union
January 28, 2003
By Mike McArdle

Today 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.

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