Last night, President Bush gave his first "State of the Union" speech of his second term and immediately we heard the wheels turning. The moment he uttered the words "God Bless America", spinsters on both sides were ready to start the neverending barrage of pundit analysis and commentary.
Those of us that watched it, know that it was a well-written speech. Whether one agrees with the content of the speech or not, it was by far the most memorable speech of his Presidency to date. Although the highlight moment did not come from behind the podium, what did flow was the President's vision of what he wants for the country.
What we heard, somewhat depends on what we expected to hear and what we wanted to hear. Whatever disposition we carried into the speech has a direct correlation as to what we are saying today. If someone has been highly critical of the President, that's not likely to change today. If someone has been highly supportive, that probably won't change either. But to those that have judged Mr. Bush's performance in a fair and objective manner in the past, really watched and listened closely. We heard his words, we can even read the text again, if we like. We can spend weeks and weeks dissecting and analyzing the whole thing, piece by piece. We know that one side loved it and one side hated it, but just what did he really say?
Here is what I heard:
1. I heard confidence, commitment, and triumph. With the success of the Iraqi elections behind him, I heard more determination and will. Although he has taken emormous heat from the left for our involvement in that country, he has consistently communicated his vision of liberty and freedom, which leads to peace, throughout his entire Presidency. And, last night was no exception.
2. I heard him challenge the Democrats to step up to the plate and take some strong political risks. Some just will not publicly admit that Social Security is in grave danger of bankrupting, even though President Clinton and many other Democrats have said the same thing for years. Others admit it, but minimize it. The President threw all of them an opportunity to be involved in making the necessary repairs to save it. He told each and every member of Congress, that any/everything is on the table and he will listen to any idea from anyone. The ball is now in the Democrats' court.
3. I heard an agenda of priorities that accurately reflects his belief and value systems. From liberty/freedom to Social Security, we heard it. From cutting inefficient and wasteful programs that do not meet their objectives to creating new effective programs like medical treatment for AIDS and adequate legal representation for those accused in capital murder cases, from beginning to end, that was George W. Bush ( like him or not).
In the coming days, we will hear many things from the Democrats. What I hope I do not hear is how the President is a liar or how he doesn't care about average Americans. And, I don't want to hear how he is a Nazi and is dangerous for America. Don't get me wrong, I want to hear dissent if it's warranted. But I want it to be accompanied by better ideas and better solutions and not just descriptions of the problems. We all see the problems. Griping and complaining is easy. Being part of the solution is hard work. It is the difference between statemanship and plain old politics. Anyone can complain, but not many can lead.