Address needed stronger ‘war cry’

If you were playing the State of the Union address drinking game the other night, you were hammered if you drank each time Bush said “blessed,” “faith” or “peace.” Pretty tame stuff for a speech in which many Americans anticipated a declaration of war against Iraq, or North Korea, or somebody.

Everyone knows war with Iraq is a priority for this administration. It’s practically all they’ve talked about since they lost track of Osama What’s-His-Name.

But, Bush the son doesn’t want to repeat the crucial mistake of Bush the father. Despite high approval ratings following the first Gulf War, the elder Bush was viewed as out of touch with voters’ concerns about what was then (as now) a sluggish economy. His attempts at persuading them otherwise were unsuccessful.

Fresh off his party’s majority gains in the midterm elections, the younger Bush delivered his Hughes-scripted caring message by promising a little something for everyone while offering few specifics as to how we’re going to pay for it all.

His economic plan consists almost entirely of immediate and permanent tax cuts, $300 billion deficit and multiple-front wars be damned.

In his speech, Bush also offered proposals for Medicare reform and prescription drug benefits, two issues that move college students everywhere to profound boredom.

Most of his proposals remain limited to placing caps on lawsuits and privatizing essential services, both of which fulfill the wildest fantasies of some of Bush’s biggest backers: pharmaceutical manufacturers, insurance companies and investment brokerages.

Bush next tried playing the environmentalist by hyping hydrogen fuel cell cars and his recently enacted Healthy Forests Initiative, though he didn’t spend much time on the specifics of either proposal.

While the gradual phasing-in of fuel cell technology sounds great, Bush failed to mention that he has already pushed back a deadline, instituted by his father, for automakers to develop this technology.

Bush spent the middle portion of his address sending a shout-out to the religious right. He peppered this portion of the speech with religious allusions and not so thinly veiled references to restricting women’s reproductive rights.

Bush urged lawmakers to pass his stalled faith-based initiatives and the Citizen Service Act.

Then, in a total reversal of all his past policies, Bush talked of preventing AIDS in Africa with expensive medicine (I’d like to say what’s up to the pharmaceutical makers!) and what will likely amount to questionable foreign aid packages to dictators, no doubt with abstinence-only strings attached.

Then, in a whiplash-inducing segue, Bush dropped his voice just a bit, the way one might to build suspense in a ghost story, and began talking about his plans for war with Iraq. He spoke with obvious relish of the torture and assassinations of suspected al-Qaeda members. He made pithy action-hero remarks. He slurred several jingoistic slogans.

Bush gave the neither American people, nor the world, any credible reasons to launch a pre-emptive war with Iraq.

The only evidence he offered was the biological weapons that the U.S. had sold Saddam in the 1980s, and what Bush characterized as “high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production,” which were discovered last month by U.N. inspectors.

Former U.N. inspector Scott Ritter has said repeatedly that any biological weapons Iraq might have in its possession would be, by now, nothing more than “harmless goo.”

The alleged missile warheads, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, are not even usable for nuclear weapons.

“Harmless goo and aluminum tubes” is catchy, but it’s not much of a rallying cry. In historical terms, “Remember the Maine” was much better. And just as dubious.