Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Reactions to the President's Speech

A few quick takes on President Bush's speech yesterday. He said that he had four priorities for Congress:

  1. The energy bill. On this, the President says all the right things -- need to reduce dependence on foreign energy sources, need to research and develop new energy sources, etc. I can't disagree with any of his words. The problem is the bill. Turns out the President's idea of new energy sources is drilling in the Arctic, coal power, and maybe corn-based ethanol. (Corn mega-farms are already unsustainable and environmentally damaging. Is it really such a great idea to divert our unquenchable thirst for energy to corn sources?)
  2. CAFTA. As the President explained it, the Central American nations are laying tarriffs on American imports, while America isn't tarriffing Central American imports, so we need to "level the playing field". Um, so he's saying that the Central American nations are ganging up on poor little USA, and we can't compete? Isn't that sort of like Tiger Woods playing golf with a bunch of amateurs, and insisting there should be no handicaps, so that the playing field is level?
  3. A balanced budget. "We're on track to eliminate the deficit by 2009." Incredible. The claim to be "on track" rests on a pile of incredible assumptions (like the annual "extraordinary" appropriations for the war, which magically don't count) and also depends on the expiry of the tax cuts. At the same time, the President wants to make the tax cuts permanent. Some would call this "disassembling" (see below).
  4. Social Security. The President takes credit for having moved the debate forward. He says he could have avoided the whole issue. And he says that three months ago everyone was insisting "there's no problem", and now most people acknowledge that there is a problem. That is true, and I give him credit.

I didn't catch all of the Q&A, but I recall one reporter asked him to respond to the Amnesty International report that accused America of creating a "new gulag" in Guantanamo. The President called this report absurd, and said that their only sources were former prisoners who hated America and who had been "trained to disassemble -- that means to tell lies". His denial is absurd (and not just because of his "folksy" word-mangling). The evidence of abuse, not just in Guantanamo but in interrogation facilities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, is mounting. With regard to prisoner abuse (not to mention the "balanced budget"), the administration is doing some "disassembling" of its own.

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