I’m probably going to surprise a lot of people by saying I was pleasantly surprised. Just yesterday I was talking with some folks about government investment in research beyond the military, and using environmental research as an example, so $1.2B for hydrogen-powered vehicle research seems like a good start. ;-) $15B for AIDS relief in Africa and the Caribbean was also a welcome surprise. I think the time might even be ripe for “Project Bioshield”. I expected to hear almost nothing I liked, and the inclusion of items such as these seemed almost like progress.

On the other hand, there’s still the dividend tax cut, faith-based initiatives, and national missile defense. Yech. There was some definite dishonesty on tax cuts and health care. For example:

  • “Ninety-two million Americans will keep this year an average of almost $1,100 more of their own money”
    Yeah, George, but what’s the median? If Bill Gates walks into a crowded room the average income rises substantially, but the median remains practically unchanged. The Bush tax cut still benefits the already-wealthy disproportionately.
  • [on health care costs] “These problems will not be solved with a nationalized health care system that dictates coverage and rations care.”
    They won’t be solved by letting private for-profit HMOs dictate coverage and ration care either.
  • “just like you, the members of Congress, and your staffs and other federal employees, all seniors should have the choice of a health care plan that provides prescription drugs.”
    …but, unlike you, they’ll have to leave the system for the warm embrace of for-profit HMOs to get that.
  • “I urge the Congress to pass medical liability reform.”
    Reform would be welcome, but there are many kinds of reform. The kind of reform that merely says “we’ll make it harder to sue your HMO for withholding care” isn’t a solution.

When you look past the mom-and-apple-pie phrasing, it doesn’t seem that any of Bush’s proposals actually do squat for the economy or for health care.

Bush’s case for war in Iraq was weak, but less weak than I expected. It now seems possible that a case can be made before the UN security council next Friday to justify immediate action. We already knew that the current round of inspections was (finally!) converging on a scientific verdict and, if those vague “US intelligence sources” can (again, finally!) show a link between Iraq and terrorist groups that threaten us, maybe that will be sufficient. France will never come around, of course, because they’re too worried that thinking about nuclear proliferation will lead people to wonder why otherwise-insignificant France is allowed to retain nuclear weapons and a permanent veto in the security council. It looks like Russia’s ready to be convinced, though, and maybe others as well. I’d still like to see a clearer “exit strategy” detailing what happens after the military victory, but Blix’s report and Bush’s address have left me willing to be convinced that we have done our “due diligence” and legitimately determined that war is necessary. Unlike the “peace at any cost” crowd, that’s all I’ve ever expected.

Overall, then, I’ll give Bush a C+. I was expecting to give him his usual D or worse, but he actually managed to mix a couple of decent points in with the bluster and BS.