SOTU 2007

Ken AshfordBush & Co.Leave a Comment

0123natwebbushI stopped writing about Bush’s low poll numbers a while ago, simply because it became redundent to do so, and it only serves to reinforce what everybody knows: Bush is a gloriously unpopular president.

But going into his State Of The Union speech tonight, it is worth noting that he has reached all-time lows — even for him.  The new CBS poll, for example, puts him at a 28% approval rating, which is Nixon territory.  (When Nixon resigned, his approval rating was 24%.  And his disapproval rating was 66%, just two higher than Bush’s 64%).

It’s common — indeed, expected — for Presidents to devote major portions of their SOTU speeches to listing the accomplishments over the past year (capped by the inevitable: "Ladies and Gentlemen of Congress, distinguished guests, and the people of the United States of America, the state of the Union  …is …STRONG!!")

Still, I wonder what Bush is going to actually be able to say.  The stock market is doing well, although I’m not sure how much credit he can take for that.  Gas prices are low . . . at the moment.  But other than that, what can he cite as accomplishments for his Administration over the past year?

News reports suggest that he is going to present some bold initiatives, kind of like a couple of years ago when he tallked about colonizing Mars.  Of course, what he says and what he does remains to be seen.

It seems clear though that he is opening the doors to, and addressing, the issues of health care and environmentalism. 

On the former issue, Bush will propose a limit on the deductibility given to employees who have employment-based health insurance, and a tax credit for most in that category, too.  These is a nice start, and I welcome it [UPDATE: Well, maybe it’s not what it’s cracked up to be].  Sadly, it hardly does much to address what is actually needed — universal health care coverage (the U.S. is the only advanced country in the world not to have this).  And it doesn’t move the ball forward in terms of getting insurance companies to pay for health care benefits, rather than look for reasons to deny it.

But at least it puts the ball on the field, and begins the dialogue.

Still, I won’t be watching SOTU.  I have a feeling it will be just a lot of feel-good words and promises, and then nothing will happen.   For sure, he’ll talk about the need for America to no longer rely on foreign energy, but, we’ve heard that before, yes?:

State of the Union, 1/29/2002: Good jobs also depend on reliable and affordable energy. This Congress must act to encourage conservation, promote technology, build infrastructure, and it must act to increase energy production at home so America is less dependent on foreign oil.

State of the Union, 1/28/2003: Our third goal is to promote energy independence for our country, while dramatically improving the environment. … Even more, I ask you to take a crucial step and protect our environment in ways that generations before us could not have imagined.

State of the Union, 1/20/2004: Consumers and businesses need reliable supplies of energy to make our economy run — so I urge you to pass legislation to modernize our electricity system, promote conservation, and make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy.

State of the Union, 2/2/2005: To keep our economy growing, we also need reliable supplies of affordable, environmentally responsible energy. … I urge Congress to pass legislation that makes America more secure and less dependent on foreign energy.

State of the Union, 1/31/2006: Keeping America competitive requires affordable energy. And here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil. …. By applying the talent and technology of America, this country can dramatically improve our environment, move beyond a petroleum-based economy, and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past.

One wonders how much saber-rattling Bush is going to do over Iran.  And will he have the evidence this time?

On the other hand, it would be entertaining to watch everybody sit on their hands and give lukewarm applause.

HISTORICAL NOTE:  My first blog post was written 3 years and two days ago (Jan. 21, 2004) on the subject of Bush’s 2004 SOTU address.

UPDATED:  Graphic from NYT added.