The State of the Union was about as bland as expected. Bush mispronounced a few words, deflected attention from the defeat in Iraq by focusing on the few successes (at least he didn’t invoke Saddam’s execution…), and proposed a tax cut to people who don’t pay income tax as a solution to the lack of universal health insurance.
Bush’s promised tax cut is a 7,500 deduction. People who lack insurance are mostly in the 15% bracket, but get enough back in the Earned Income Tax Credit that they don’t pay federal income taxes. The lion’s share of the taxes they pay is in FICA and sales taxes.
The education policy he tried advocating was uninteresting enough that when he talked about local control, we switched to mathematical jokes. “I’m more into global stuff,” I said. Then it escalated to “The terrorists’ scheme will not succeed,” “Joint Chiefs of Staff” (think “adjoint sheaves”), “killing fields,” “rings of terrorists,” “free groups of citizens,” and “we will push forward and never pull back.”
The most interesting part wasn’t the address, but the responses to it. Besides being more articulate than the address, Jim Webb’s response was contained such gems as (rough quote) “If the President understands the need for eventual withdrawal, we’ll work with him. If he doesn’t, we’ll show him the way.”
John McCain tried explaining why he supported the surge. What he ended up admitting was that the US strategy in Iraq was a failure. He couldn’t explain why a 21,500 troop surge would help anything, or why the new strategy was materially different from the one he admitted was a failure. He said he trusted General Petraeus and that’s it, more or less.
Hillary Clinton was was asked point-blank if she supported withdrawing. Needless to say, she evaded the question, answering instead with general platitudes about the surge. The only thing she was specific about was that she didn’t like Bush, a position she adopted promptly after Bush’s approval rate fell below 40%.
Barack Obama was a bit more specific. He mentioned something about withdrawing someday, but like Clinton said nothing of substance.