The State of Your Union

Tonight was the continuation of an American tradition in which the elected executive stands before the whole of the remaining two branches of government and delivers their thoughts and visions on and for the Nation. It is a good opportunity to listen to what the president has to say about America: what do do they care about? What do they want to do? What have they done?

G. W. Bush had a few main points tonight, which included:

1. Isolationism = Defeatism
2. Democracy everywhere is the future
3. Building on existing domestic momentum

That is what he said. Here is what it actually means. We will approach this line-by-line, with parallel translation of rhetoric.

G. W. Started out paying respect to Coretta Scott King, who passed on today. That was a good move, but it was also probably the highlight of the night.

“Act in a spirit of goodwill and respect.”
G. W. Used this in reference to the heated, partisan tone of recent Washington debates (Patriot Act Extension, Alito Confirmation Hearings, Domestic Spying Inquiries). What this really means is “Democrats need to stop making noise. Get down or lay down.” It means that conservatives don’t want any disagreement, regardless of its merit (more on this below).

“Isolationism leads to danger and defeat.”
This is how G. W. Began his foreign policy section. This is a challenge to those of us who feel that domestic matters outweigh foreign affairs. Isolationist is conservative code for “having one’s priorities in logical order.” Is it “danger and defeat” if you care more about someone else’s house than your own family’s well-being? Of course not: it’s stupid.

“We seek the end of tyranny in the world…democracies replace resentment with hope…”
This was how G. W. Justified his *Offensive Democracy* foreign policy approach. Research has shown that “fighting them there so they don’t fight us here” holds as much water as a spider web. What does tyranny mean? It can be summed up in two words: unchecked leadership. America was designed to protect against such a thing, but with all three branches compromised, that protection has disappeared. As for democracy replacing resentment, is there resentment in American democracy? That’s another spider web full of Kool-Aid.

Mentioned Zimbabwe among non-democracies
The African continent made an appearance this year. The last time the Earth’s source was mentioned by G. W. was when he lied about Iraq getting weapons of mass destruction from Niger. I don’t think this mention will stir as much reaction.

“Terrorists chose the weapon of fear”
This is the first nominee for Line of the Night. BushCo has pedaled fear and propaganda in order to justify their foolish, selfish policies, including [but not limited to] the Patriot Act and the Domestic Spying program and the so-called “War on Terror.”

“The US will not retreat from the world, and we will never surrender to evil”
More code for “isolationism” being bad. See above.

“Clear plan for victory” in Iraq
This is the second nominee for Line of the Night. All I can say about this is this: when the “clear plan” is made “clear” by not “clearly” defining success, then is it really that “clear?”

“Iraq: 3 years to sovereignty…we are winning”
Sovereignty? G. W. Still hasn’t figured out what sovereignty means. What government is sovereign when it is supported, financed, and protected by another government. And “we are winning?” See above for an explanation on why you can’t win when you don’t know what winning means or looks like.

“The road of victory is the road that will take our troops home”
This is a feeble attempt at defining winning. Any idiot knows that when a “war” is “over,” the troops will come home. This is simply an empty, rhetorical, admission of the obvious.

Responsible Criticism vs. Defeatism
G. W. has touched on this before. Responsible criticism might as well mean total, blind agreement. Anything less is defeatism in the eyes of conservatives.

“Keep our word…stand behind the American military”
The “keep our word” part is the same as the “stay the course” B.S. that we’ve been hearing since the election of 2004. It means “I [and my backers] am too damn hard-headed to see my flawed actions and decisions of the past, and I refuse to change my tactics in spite of my mistakes.” It is an unfortunate reality that we meddled in and broke Iraq. Oh well in my opinion. I would much rather see resources expended in the Gulf Coast than the Persian Gulf.

“Raising up a democracy requires the rule of law…”
The timing of this statement is matched only by its irony. We are amid scandal and corruption in Washington, yet the President is calling for “the rule of law” in other nations. Apparently Americans can be above the law. Well, Americans WITH MONEY (read: Republicans) can be above the law.

America wants to be “the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran”
This is laughable considering that we will likely be invading Iran in the near future. Whether they were free or democratic, they would get invaded.

Patriot Act: “same tools used to fight drugs and crime”
This is how G. W. introduced his case for renewal of the controversial Patriot Act. There is plenty on this blog that makes our opposition to this clear. Black people should fear and reject anything similar to the “tools used to fight drugs and crime” that have led to such grave injustices as racial profiling, disproportionate Black male incarceration, and systematic Black disenfranchisement.

Spying: “appropriate members of Congress kept informed”
More attempts to justify “Terrorism Surveillance.” What defines “appropriate?” Why wasn’t the “appropriate,” appointed FISA Court informed?

“Roosevelt, Kennedy rejected isolation and retreat”
Sprinkle of rhetoric here about why “isolationism” is bad. We’ve already covered why that’s just plain dumb.

“I urge the Congress to act responsibly and make the tax cuts permanent.”
This oxymoron is the third nominee for Line of the Night. This means the the legislature should “responsibly” withhold money from important domestic affairs to reward the wealthy. Permanent tax cuts would be as irresponsible as permanent tax increases. Since one cannot predict future occurrences, tax policy should be periodically, organically evaluated.

The Special-Interest problem can be tackled with the Line-Item Veto
Never seen a President that didn’t want a Line-Item Veto, so that’s nothing new. The question is, would he really, really do something about lobbyists if he had one? I doubt it.

“Keeping America competitive requires affordable Health Care…Strengthen Health Spending Accounts…Make coverage portable”
The first and third phrases sound decent enough to me, given that I want the ultimate in affordable, portable coverage: Universal Health Care. The second phrase is one that I have a problem with. This point, nestled between two decent ideas, is part of G. W.’s Ownership Society message. The problem is that 45 million Americans don’t have Health care and cannot afford it, another would not be able to afford or understand HSAs as proposed. The beauty of Universal Health Care is that is based on a simple notion: you need health care, you get it, period. HSAs are no more than funnels leading to the pockets of HMOs and Insurance companies. Do not be fooled.

“America is addicted to oil…Advanced Energy Initiative…Replace 75% of Middle Eastern oil dependence by 2025”
This is actually a good idea. Increase research in ethanol and zero-emission coal power is a good thing. However, I can’t imagine BushCo’s oil buddies letting this kind of thing actually result in lower oil consumption.

“American Competitiveness Initiative”
Again, another good idea in theory. Doubling our commitment to natural sciences, permanent research tax credits, encouraging more math & science in secondary education, all good stuff. I just hope they don’t use No Child Left Behind as the model for implementation.

Work with Black churches to fight AIDS
Black folks came up again at the end. This marks the first time I had ever heard a White Republican cite statistics on AIDS in Black America. While I am happy about that (it is a step in the right direction), I am worried that the Black church path is a flawed one. BushCo has coaxed the Black church into supporting him on issues such as abortion and gay marriage, and he may be at it again. I would not trust these guys, as a fear that they are more concerned with gaining votes that saving Black lives.

There you have it.

Please share your thoughts and reactions to the speech and my reactions.


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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I am the City of Detroit's first ever Deputy Technology Director for Civic Community Engagement. My job is to open up the city's public data and information for the consumption and benefit of all Detroiters. I currently live in Detroit, my hometown, with my beautiful wife Ellen and our twins Garlin III and Emily Grace. I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora, and was formerly the National Campaign Director at I also co-hosted The #WinReport on "The Good Fight," a an award winning, nationally syndicated radio show that was one of Apple's Best of 2013. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. I spent two years creating and implementing a strategy for the Center to take it's 40 years of community organizing experience into the digital age. I speak before diverse audiences on effective & responsive government, empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation through emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet. Full bio here.

3 responses to “The State of Your Union”

  1. Kyle says :

    Well-stated, as usual. I never turn to CNN or any new service to gain informed opinion on the SotU address…only Garlin II. I refused to watch the entire thing, but know that conservatives on campus (in Ann Arbor, actually) could be heard loud and clear giving each and every one of those 58 rounds of applause.

    You could hear a pin drop in 98% of Blackamerica.

    He had his moments of ‘brilliance’ (all relative), but on the whole he just wants to get those approval ratings up so the rhetoric was in full effect. I foresee more war, more invasions (read: Iran’s got to go), and more money for the rich. What a surprise.

  2. Anonymous says :

    You are right on target!!
    Garlin sr

  3. SMD says :

    As we stated the other day: “This too shall pass.” If we live long enough, we will see good again. But in the mean time, no one likes to watch others drinkin the Kool-Aid in wool pajamas.

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