Bush: Neither apologetic nor defensive

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On Monday night, President Bush gave his eighth and final State of the Union address. Dressed in a blue tie, with his American-flag pin securely fastened, Bush faced Congress, distinguished guests, and millions of TV viewers.

This was my first time watching a State of the Union address. I didn’t know what to expect. How would Bush present his time as president? With brutal honesty? With fist-pumping pride?

According to the Constitution, the purpose of the address is to report to Congress, literally, the state of the union, and to recommend measures the president thinks should be considered promptly. President Bush did all of this. He summarized the hardships America has faced tied to war, the economy, and health care, but assured us that the government’s duty was to “to carry out the people’s business,” and that is exactly what he intended to do. There was alarming applause.

Then the sugarcoating began. Bush said that, in the long run, Americans should have confidence in the economy, but that in the short run, we can all see that growth is slowing. Just slowing? Not rapidly decreasing?

Despite Bush’s optimistic words, the economy is in bad shape, and for the past six months, we’ve been on the brink of recession. The housing market is in dire condition (houses aren’t being built, prices are falling), the value of the dollar is declining every day (which means the cost of imports will continue to rise and inflation is inevitable), and banks are losing millions in profit as a result of the credit crisis. To answer the problem of sluggish economic growth, Bush urged a bill to stimulate the economy: tax rebates for families and tax cuts for businesses to encourage investment. Is this enough to avoid recession?

Bush then vehemently reminded us that the fight against terrorism, against the “evil men” of al Qaeda, is not over. This prefaced his ever-strong praise for the war efforts in Iraq, and particularly for the surge in troops executed last year. I don’t claim to be a war strategist, but what we’ve accomplished in Iraq is little compared to what we’ve lost — thousands of lives and a significant amount of respect from other nations. And how can we ignore his basis for entering in the first place — the misguided argument that there were weapons of mass destruction? The tyranny of Saddam ended as did the threat of WMDs, and while it has been a long war, we haven’t forgotten.

Bush’s overall tone was neither apologetic nor outwardly defensive, although his approval rating is the lowest in history at 31 percent. Really, his speech was rather dull. He stated the accomplishments of his presidency as if there had never been any controversy surrounding them. He talked about his support of America’s effort to increase ethical scientific research, to bring democracy to countries that want and need it, and to pass laws to reduce oil usage.

I can see why people would feel annoyed that he had the nerve to praise policies that have failed or came too little, too late. But what can we expect from Bush right now? His time as president isn’t over. With a year left in office, he’s going to support what he’s brought to the table. After all, he’s always been a man who sticks by his word, for better or for worse.