State of the Disunion

Considering some of the comments of late, I have a hard time not commenting on tonight’s State of the Union address by President George W. Bush.

Whitehouse.gov ScreenshotThinking my wife would be watching the latest episode of America’s Next Top Model, I tried to watch the speech online. Apparently the Whitehouse web site was going to webcast the speech. Two minutes before the speech began I couldn’t find any indication on the site of how or where to access the webcast. Thankfully, even UPN opted to cover the speech, so I was able to watch it on old fashioned TV. Now that the speech is over, I see two little Real and Win icons which launch the webcast, though no text to indicate as much. Did anybody else try to watch the speech online? Any success?

Aside from the technical hurtles, I found the speech mildly entertaining. My favorite part was when Bush said, “Key provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire next year,” and the Democrat side of Congress erupted in applause. Not to be outdone, the Republicans cheered as Bush finished his statement, “The terrorist threat will not expire on that schedule,” with an additional scowl to the Democrats. I don’t know enough about the Patriot Act to take a side, I just thought the reactions were funny. It’s almost as good as reality TV.

One comment I found especially odd, and it still puzzles me: “For diplomacy to be effective, words must be credible — and no one can now doubt the word of America.” Bush said these words after the example of Libya giving up its WMD programs after negotiations. But I wonder how Bush can possibly think America is credible in the eyes of the world when the tons and tons of weapons of mass destruction we went to war over are nonexistant. ABC panned to Secretary of State Colin Powell, and I wondered if the ABC director was thinking the same thing, remembering Powell’s display of intelligence before the United Nations.

Finally, there are these words on freedom:

We also hear doubts that democracy is a realistic goal for the greater Middle East, where freedom is rare. Yet it is mistaken, and condescending, to assume that whole cultures and great religions are incompatible with liberty and self-government. I believe that God has planted in every heart the desire to live in freedom. And even when that desire is crushed by tyranny for decades, it will rise again.

As long as the Middle East remains a place of tyranny, despair, and anger, it will continue to produce men and movements that threaten the safety of America and our friends. So America is pursuing a forward strategy of freedom in the greater Middle East.

A recent post of mine on poverty drew criticism that I contradict myself in supporting the rights of the poor in the U.S., while not supporting the rights of Iraqis brutalized under Saddam Hussein. Those comments seem to completely agree with Bush’s remarks above, but I think I see things differently.

I hear a call from the Bible to protect the innocent, care for the poor, uplift the downtrodden, but I also hear a call from the Bible — and especially Jesus — to be peacemakers. This is a debate I’ve had many times before, and I see no clear answers. Sometimes force is required to maintain peace and justice, but that’s a contradictory approach. There aren’t any easy answers.

Freedom and democracy are great things, but I guess I don’t see them as answers to the world’s problems. You can protect the innocent, care for the poor, uplift the downtrodden and promote peace and justice without the freedom and democracy we have in the U.S. Maybe I sound like an idiot. Freedom and democracy probably make it easier to do those things, but freedom and democracy aren’t the goal. Peace and justice are, so why not focus on them? You’re aiming for the wrong goal, and in attaining that goal you’ll have lost site of the true goal.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, as the verse goes, not on churches or sermons or pastors or books or doctrines or any of those things that can be wonderful in the walk of faith, but in and of themselves are nothing.

Maybe I’m totally off-base, but that’s my perspective at 10:21 p.m. CT on the eve of the State of the Union address.

6 thoughts on “State of the Disunion”

  1. Well, if we’re all going to be honest, many thought Iraq had WMD’s, and not just Bush. Clinton did during his presidency, Gore was quoted as saying the same the fall before the invasion of Iraq, etc.

    Bush and his govt. read the intelligence and thought that it pointed to WMD. Not everyone agreed, but intelligence is never 100% sure at all.

    So, I don’t think things should be as fogged as some are making it on that issue. Bush is also probably saying that we won’t take crap from terrorists, and also that he’s sticking it out in Iraq like he said he would, despite cries for the contrary. He’s just saying he’s doing what he said he would, a different definition then you’re giving it, I think. Though I didn’t see it, I’m just guessing!

    I think the democracy and poor comments are focusing on gradations. Yeah, it’s not great to be poor in the US, but living under a hostile dictatorship is worse. If every country closed off and only focused on itself, isolationism would be the result, and that wouldn’t help anything either.

    Peace and justice are good things that Christians should strive for, but of all the governments and political ideoligies over the years, freedom and democracy are the best we’ve come up with to support the two.

    The world is not perfect, and as you said, we’re striving for Jesus, and you have to make the best of the tools you have. Freedom and democracy aren’t perfect, but they’re better than the alternative at this point.

  2. Hey Kevin, I love the debate you bring to your site. It makes me feel like I’m back in one of our Honors classes of old. I kinda feel bad for you sometimes cause most of the people that reply to you come from a more conservative persuasion. Anyway, thanks for the stimulating thoughts.

    I happen to agree with you that our goal should be to push peace and justice. Democracy can be a great tool for reaching these ends but I don’t think it’s always the best way. Africa is a great example of this. Look at all the “democratic” counties in Africa with free elections. It’s a joke. The people don’t have justice and there certainly isn’t much peace. The only model that has really had any success in Africa is the “benevolent dictator.” Look at Uganda and Mali as some of the few examples where the people actually have a decent level of peace and justice.

    Anyway, back to the State of the Union. I thought it was a very good speech.

  3. Andrew Sullivan has an interesting critique of the speech, basically saying that the president spent most of the evening defending his actions of the past three years, rather than outlining a vision for the future. Interesting thought, hadn’t thought of the speech in that way.

  4. Heh, well some would debate whether a country with non-free “free” elections and completely biased justice is a democracy. When done RIGHT, democracy is a lot less hit or miss than waiting for a benevolent dictator.

    *sigh* I still haven’t heard the speech, and my current annoyance with politics (I basically argued them 24/7 all last fall, spring, and summer) is keeping me from doing so. Still, considering some are questioning his actions, and this is an election year, the future is what Bush has been doing, and will do. Without having heard the speech, it might have been smarter for him to focus on moving forward, but it’s hard to tell without having heard the speech.

  5. I disagree with Andrew Sullivan. Bush was clearly responding to the attacks by his Democratic opponents, but it was in the context of looking toward the future (i.e. the election) and “staying the course” and “finishing the job” and all that.

    I also found it funny when the Democrats applauded Bush’s opening statement about the Patriot Act. They definitely got him on that one. Did anyone else notice a lot of references to privacy issues — as in, the removal of privacy (i.e. Patriot Act, drug testing in high schools, etc.)?

    Overall I thought the speech was OK. I wasn’t extremely inspired by it or anything. To me, Bush is someone I trust is actually a Christian and is sincerely basing his policies on biblical principles (or at least his interpretation of them), as opposed to the Democrats (like Dean) who are just putting on faith to get votes.

    I don’t agree lock, stock and barrel (pun intended) with Bush’s foreign policy, economic policy, or even his domestic policy (e.g. marriage amendment, etc.). But I trust the Democrats even less.

  6. I’m not sure if I’ve ever completely trusted a president before. Maybe I’m too young to judge that, but I’ve never been completely gung-ho about an elected official before (and I’m still not).

    Bush, well you’ve heard me go off on Bush before. Clinton always seemed like he was trying to pull a fast one, and it turns out he was. The first Bush had the whole no new taxes thing, but at that point I was too young to know or care. I just remember praying everyday while I ate my breakfast and watched the news that Bush would become a Christian. Seems kind of silly that he was and I never knew it. And I was too young for most of Reagan’s presidency, though everytime they mentioned the Star Wars program on the news I got all excited because I thought they were talking about the movie. I’ve held that against Reagan ever since. And Carter, well I was a year old at the time, so I have no comment.

    I’d definitely have to agree with Sullivan’s comments on the Democratic Response. Lame-o. Even John Kerry’s post-State of the Union interview on ABC was better with all of his jabbering and cutting off Peter Jennings.

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