Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 01:53 | SYDNEY
Wednesday 25 Nov 2020 | 01:53 | SYDNEY

State of the Union


Sam Roggeveen


29 January 2008 13:49

It was instructive to watch President Bush's State of the Union from the offices of the US Consulate here in Sydney. The consulate's hospitality, as is so often the case with Americans, was generous and cheerful. But George Bush's America has another face, and those who attended also had to suffer the ritual inneficiencies (it took 15 minutes to get through security) and indignities (shoes and belt off, hold on to your pants) brought about by America's abject fear of terrorism. Nothing in George Bush's speech indicated a change of heart about this. In fact, Bush's line that terrorism and radical Islam are 'the defining ideological struggle of the 21st century' represents just the latest absurd over-inflation of this threat.

It was a Clintonian laundry list of a speech, replete with new bills and initiatives, and old ones that Congress had failed to pass. There was little new on the foreign policy front, though I'd never previously heard Bush say there was an end-of-year deadline for Israelis and Palestinians to define a Palestinian state. As my colleague Anthony Bubalo has noted, Middle East peace process deadlines rarely survive. (UPDATE: Anthony tells me this is not new; in fact, it is the same deadline he refers to in his post. Duh.)

Some other thoughts/highlights:

  • I'm pretty sure there was a quick shot of Ambassador Dennis Richardson sitting in the chamber.
  • Bush said 'America opposes genocide in Sudan', which apparently merited a standing ovation. Did they think he'd be for it?
  • By my observation, Bush's brief mention of Burma in a list of totalitarian states was the only specific reference to Asia.
  • Cruelest cutaway of the night: just as Bush is reaching the crescendo of his applause line about the evils of government control in health care, the TV director cuts to Obama. The Republicans roar; Obama looks stone-faced and does not even clap.
  • Bush did not talk about his legacy and barely acknowledged this was his last SOTU. Apparently he plans to work this year, even if others consider him a lame duck.