Last night, President Bush delivered his final State of the Union address to the nation. The purpose of the address is to allow the President to share his/her vision of our current situations and future directions. Members of the Washington Office watched the address and below are some of our responses as they pertain to our portfolios:
After beginning his remarks on immigration with a call to secure the border, President Bush spoke about the need to create a “sensible and humane solution,” and “a lawful way for foreign workers to come here and support our economy.” But those compassionate-sounding words are belied by their omission of the need for a path to citizenship for the twelve million undocumented persons living in the United States, the continuance of Operation Endgame, and Bush’s own opposition this Fall to the DREAM Act.
We cringed while President Bush mentioned the 2006 termination of “catch and release” policy. While this is a positive step, describing the treatment of human beings with a phrase usually applied to fish is another way in which undocumented immigrants are dehumanized, similar to use of the phrase “illegal alien.”
Bush also stated, “We reaffirm our pledge to help them [the Gulf Coast] build stronger and better than before.” It is scary to reaffirm a pledge that has not been upheld in the first place. Two and a half years after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the area is still plagued with problems. Abysmal disaster response followed by bungled rebuilding, a diaspora, toxic trailers, and exploited workers embody one of the United States government’s most drastic failures of its people in modern times.
Little was said last night in relation to women’s issues or BGLT equality. President Bush chose to focus his energy on what he knows best: terror and security. However, he did make a few key comments. In regard to the discovery of adult skin cells to act as embryonic stem cells he said,
“This breakthrough has the potential to move us beyond the divisive debates of the past by extending the frontiers of medicine without the destruction of human life.”
Later, he then went on to speak about the need to protect Americans and continue funding for security measures,
“To protect America, we need to know who the terrorists are talking to, what they are saying, and what they’re planning.”
We would know what the terrorists were saying if the Pentagon had not fired upwards of 37 Arabic translators for being gay. Yet there was no mention of the harmful effects of the current Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy.
On global climate change, it was gratifying to hear President Bush (finally) recognize that human activity is a cause and that human action is necessary to reverse it. However, while Bush claimed that the U.S. would take the lead in addressing global climate change he offered no concrete steps to do so. It is indicative of the president’s fundamentalist faith in corporations that he thinks supply and demand will automatically cause businesses to create painless solutions to our environmental problems. Our office certainly does not question the power of American ingenuity. However, we also recognize that without government regulation of emissions, there is not enough demand to motivate the research and development of much needed solutions. If the president were serious about U.S. leadership in this area, he would propose emissions caps while providing economic assistance to those individuals and families who will be most hard hit by rising costs.
As for peacemaking, President Bush made several comments surrounding domestic and international needs. The President asked Congress to reauthorize warrantless wiretapping, which did not did not make the Supreme Court too happy. He asked Congress to reauthorize Federal funding for faith-based initiatives and while that endeavor has its pros and cons, one phrase stood out to me. He called the millions of volunteers, NGO’s and faith-based community improvement projects in the United States the “Armies of Compassion, marching to bring in a new day.” Here is an administration so reliant on militaristic rhetoric that, in Bush’s America, even relief organizations, churches and loving neighbors have been conscripted into his war-on-evil.
With international peacemaking, there was nothing new. His efforts to stay relevant in a world that obviously cannot stand his policies led to more saber rattling toward Iran, Cuba and Venezuela. Comments about progress in Iraq and Afghanistan and promises for more in Pakistan shows his belief that peace and justice come most efficiently from behind the barrel of a gun. While he made empty gestures toward peaceful efforts toward democracy in places like Burma and Belarus, he made a promise to negotiate a two State solution in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.
In 5,795 words, President Bush did not once utter the words “diplomacy”, “diplomatic”, or “diplomat”. While not surprising, it is still a grim reminder of how far our foreign policy has strayed from any semblance of right relationship. Our support for H.R. 3797, the New Diplomatic Offensive for Iraq Act, reflects our belief that diplomacy is the bedrock of accountable and effective foreign policy. I encourage you to respond to this State of the Union Address by sending a message to your representatives telling them to bring diplomacy back into our foreign policy.