28 January 2008

The State of the Union

First a few words of warning for the uninformed reader: I am a liberal.

I'm still not sure what my final verdict will be on this address. Many things irked me. Issuing an executive order not to enforce pork-barrel provisions not debated in Congress. Yes, I agree that pork-barrel spending is a problem, and I don't think that so many provisions should be inserted so freely at the end of the consideration process. However, the theory of the unitary executive is simply unconstitutional, and an abuse of presidential authority. The only way the President can limit pork-barrel spending is through the veto, which he also threatened. My only fear is that the President will end up vetoing nearly every spending bill, which will be counterproductive, despite positive intentions.

"A quick up-or-down vote" on judicial nominees... I refer to Barack Obama in The Audacity of Hope:

a good argument could be made that a vote on judicial nominations was precisely
the situation where the filibuster's supermajority requirement made sense:
Because federal judges receive lifetime appointments and often serve through the
terms of multiple presidents, it behooves a president--and benefits our
democracy--to find moderate nominees who can garner some measure of bipartisan
support. (p. 82, paperback edition)
I use the example of the filibuster as it is the most dramatic method of prolonging debate. Obama argues well for the length of debates on judicial nominations. Judges serve life terms, and a mistake in appointing them will last for a long time. The intentions of the Constitution are that the President and Congress will decide, together, on the best persons to serve the judicial system. I quote from Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution:
[The President] shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent
of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls,
Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States... (emphasis added)

I'll also add the point that George Bush's nominees tend to be right-wing ideologues intent on rewriting the Constitution, unlike the claims in his address.

I was stunned to hear Bush speak frankly to the fact that lowering greenhouse gas emissions was important. Of course, his focus on energy is based on security and cost, but he addressed environmental concerns in a very conceding way. He seems to be relenting on his anti-truth campaign in that regard.

Immigration is one issue where Bush is mostly right, and I applaud his efforts.

However, free trade is a problem. In principle, it makes sense, but I'll echo the Democratic candidates in a call for fair trade restrictions. If trade with America will lead a country to exploit its workforce, displace native communities, and create hazardous environments for wildlife and citizens alike, as is regular in much of Central and South America, then trade with America should not be allowed. The United States needs to support and enforce human rights, or at the very least not to pursue their demise. That, of course, is not a particular concern of the present administration. Making the United States one of the world's human rights trouble nations... That was a brilliant plan.

I hope the "surge" and ensuing military strategies do continue to improve the conditions on the ground. I also hope the political situation will strongly improve. I just hope that the American people don't use that as a reason to elect another Republican President.

I find it hilarious that Bush waited until his last year to visit Israel, and now an Israeli-Pakistani peace resolution could become a major part of his legacy. But I care much more for world peace than for the accurate preservation through history of the legacy this President deserves.

All in all, Bush took a step back from some of his more extreme speeches. He seems much more willing to compromise than in the past. Maybe he's learned a little from the rhetoric he spewed out in the Middle East. I hope both parties can work together as people of the same country, seeking how to make their country and the world a better place. That's their job, after all. Strident rhetoric and political posturing is rarely the best way to run the country. Do what's right, and make compromises on your pet ideas. That's what you can do for your country.

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