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. For a State of the Union address, it was actually very strong.
President Bush's health care proposal was intriguing. By allowing standard tax deductions for health insurane provided by employers up to $15,000, health care could be made more affordable, and it would be done through the private system, rather than the kind of single-payer (government) system favored by many Dems. Unfortunately, it's unlikely to go anywhere (Pete Stark, who favors a single payer system, controls one of the relevant House committees and has refused even to hold a hearing). In large part, the bill's predictable Democratic opposition stems from the fact that many in the Democrats' union constituency receive gold-plated health care packages in excess of $15,000, and they aren't willing to pay any taxes on 'em. (One has to wonder what's become of the usual liberal thirst for "sacrifice.")
But the heart and soul of the speech -- and its finest moments -- came in the part about the war on terror and Iraq. Placing Iraq in the context of the larger war on terror, reviewing the progress and the setbacks, outlining the consequences of defeat and, in particular, listing some of the thwarted terrorist attacks were extremely effective.
Even so, there's something a bit sad about a President -- in wartime -- being forced to ask for the opposition party's support for the troops, isn't there? Perhaps the most powerful passage in the entire address was this:We went into this largely united – in our assumptions, and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq – and I ask you to give it a chance to work. And I ask you to support our troops in the field – and those on their way.
Such imploring should be unnecessary. Sadly, it's not, as attested to by the Dems' stony faces when the topic of "success" came up. It seems hard to deny that they are, ideologically, personally and politically, as committed to defeat as they should be to victory.
On the other side, new Virginia senator Jim Webb offered the Democratic response
. Not surprisingly, it was the usual Democratic mishmash of class warfare and defeatism.
It's not surprising that Webb was chosen to give the response. Aside from the fact that he's a veteran, it would also be hard for many of the Democratic senators to criticize the war as he did, especially given that most of them voted for it. And so, when Webb charges that the President took us into war "recklessly," I wonder what he thinks of Senators Clinton and Kerry's (and Edwards') vote to authorize it? Does he not recall the months of dithering with "allies," the talks with the UN, the endless resolutions, and the international consensus that Saddam possessed WMD? Or is he simply willing to try to rewrite history for crass, politically expedient purposes?
Reportedly, Webb wrote his speech himself, and it showed. First -- and significantly -- there wasn't any call for victory or success in Iraq, just an insistence that the war be brought to (an unspecified) "proper conclusion." Second, he alleged that a "majority of the military" no longer supports the war. What, exactly, is his evidence for that?
Finally, even as he asserted that Democrats were not for a "precipitous withdrawal," he said that the troops "should come home in short order." There was also the usual talk of "phased redeployment."
It doesn't take a genius to understand what the euphemisms mean. The war has gotten tough, so the Dems want to give up and quit . . . the consequences be damned.