State of the Union

There is no doubt that Bush has improved as a public speaker - and not just a little. Missing from the SOTU were the maddening mannerisms and little acts of vilolence angaist the English language that we have come to expect - unless you count the point where he spoiled a gracious gesture of reconciliation by referring to the "Democrat" Party. Perhaps this reflects greater resolution or intellectual independence on his part, or maybe just practice, but it is encouraging.

Notwithstanding, the sense that we had heard these promises before - bipartizanship, energy independence, and so on, hung over the whole thing like a drunk's promise of never again. Nor were we given any reason to believe that giving him one last chance in Iraq would lead to a different outcome this time.

Once again, on the question of Iraq, I had the feeling that the President was still operating in a fantasy world of white hats and black hats and no trouble telling them apart.

By contrast, Jim Webb's brief Democratic response was economical, eloquent, and pointed. Those points were just two in number: that the country should return to the vision of Jackson and Teddy Roosevelt of a prosperity that benefitted all, not just the wealthy, and that in committing American soldiers to war, the leaders were obliged to do so with a caution and a judgement appropriate to the heavy burden being asked of those soldiers. Bush's conspicuous failure on both points was unstated but obvious - while Webb's alternative was an outlined reminder of the advantages of having a professional writer speaking his own thoughts.

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