Little but War Itself

By Borosage, Robert L. | The Nation, February 18, 2002 | Go to article overview

Little but War Itself


Borosage, Robert L., The Nation


George W. Bush strode into the Capitol for his State of the Union address the most popular President in modern history. He has said repeatedly that he will use the political capital gained in the war on terror, not let it go to waste. So what challenge did the President issue to the nation? What grand mission was laid before us? Emboldened by success in war, Bush had little to offer but war itself.

The money in the speech went to the Pentagon, a $48 billion increase that in itself is larger than any other nation's entire military budget. Bush will launch the largest military buildup since Ronald Reagan. The passion in the speech was devoted to calling out--OK Corral style--Iran, Iraq and North Korea, preposterously puffed up into a "new axis of evil," arming to threaten the peace of the world. Congress earlier gave the President a blank check to pursue those implicated in September 11 across the world. But the President is asserting the power to make war against "states like these" whether they were involved or not.

Beyond war and "homeland defense," the remainder of the speech was Clintonesque--bite-sized proposals, poll driven and focus-group tested. Bush has erased the Democratic advantage on education and seems intent on doing so on the patients' bill of rights, pension reform and prescription drugs. He labored to trump John McCain on national service. He mentioned Social Security privatization only in passing. That will be put aside until the Enron scandal is a dim memory and the 2002 election is behind us. The President's jobs mantra--tax cuts, fast track and Big Oil energy plan--was shamelessly cynical. He presented his stimulus package as providing unemployment insurance and healthcare for those who have lost their jobs. In fact, it offers far less assistance than his father did during the last Bush recession. The bulk of the package features permanent tax cuts for corporations, cuts not linked to new investment or new jobs--a simple payback to his contributors. …

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