Monday, January 29, 2007

State of the Union, Ugh!

Random thoughts on the President's State of the Union. What a mess!

Some in this chamber are new to the House and the Senate -- and I congratulate the Democrat majority. Congress has changed, but not our responsibilities. Each of us is guided by our own convictions -- and to these we must stay faithful. Yet we're all held to the same standards, and called to serve the same good purposes: To extend this nation's prosperity; to spend the people's money wisely; to solve problems, not leave them to future generations; (such as the national debt, climate change, or the war?) to guard America against all evil; and to keep faith with those we have sent forth to defend us.

We're not the first to come here with a government divided and uncertainty in the air. Like many before us, we can work through our differences, and achieve big things for the American people. Our citizens don't much care which side of the aisle we sit on (Can the Democrats quote the President on this come the elections in 2008?)-- as long as we're willing to cross that aisle when there is work to be done.

First, we must balance the federal budget. We can do so without raising taxes. (Certainly, if one makes deep cuts to social programs. Given that the defense department and entitlement programs such as social security and medicare take up roughly 2/3 of the budget, there isn’t much left to balance the budget with but social programs like those designed to protect the environment, better education and improve labor conditions.) What we need to do is impose spending discipline in Washington, D.C. (Interesting that Republicans, the “fiscal responsibility” party wern't able to do this over the past six years.) We set a goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009, and met that goal three years ahead of schedule. Now let us take the next step. In the coming weeks, I will submit a budget that eliminates the federal deficit within the next five years. (During the Clinton administration the budget actually ran a surplus. The current administration shoots for balancing the budget three years after its out of office. How bold!)

Next, there is the matter of earmarks. These special interest items are often slipped into bills at the last hour -- when not even C-SPAN is watching. In 2005 alone, the number of earmarks grew to over 13,000 and totaled nearly $18 billion. Even worse, over 90 percent of earmarks never make it to the floor of the House and Senate -- they are dropped into committee reports that are not even part of the bill that arrives on my desk. (It's odd the President didn’t veto a single one of the earmarks that did make it to his desk! Rejecting those might have been a good first step in bringing the budget into balance and given him some credibility on this matter.)

We need to uphold the great tradition of the melting pot that welcomes and assimilates new arrivals. We need to resolve the status of the illegal immigrants who are already in our country without animosity and without amnesty. Convictions run deep in this Capitol when it comes to immigration. Let us have a serious, civil, and conclusive debate, so that you can pass, and I can sign, comprehensive immigration reform into law. (Republican Tom Tancredo’s Presidential bid just took it in the shorts.)

A future of hope and opportunity requires a fair, impartial system of justice. The lives of our citizens across our nation are affected by the outcome of cases pending in our federal courts. We have a shared obligation to ensure that the federal courts have enough judges to hear those cases and deliver timely rulings. As President, I have a duty to nominate qualified men and women to vacancies on the federal bench. And the United States Senate has a duty, as well, to give those nominees a fair hearing, and a prompt up-or-down vote on the Senate floor. (Really? Where in the Constitution does it place this requirement on the Senate?)

In the sixth year since our nation was attacked, I wish I could report to you that the dangers had ended. They have not. And so it remains the policy of this government to use every lawful (and a few unlawful) and proper tool of intelligence, diplomacy, law enforcement, and military action to do our duty, to find these enemies, and to protect the American people.

This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we're in. (Nearly two thirds through his speech before the President finally mentions the most pressing issue on our time.) Every one of us wishes this war were over and won. (What happened to mission accomplished?)

In order to make progress toward this goal, the Iraqi government must stop the sectarian violence (Can you say code word for civil war?) in its capital.

The war on terror we fight today is a generational struggle that will continue long after you and I have turned our duties over to others. And that's why it's important to work together so our nation can see this great effort through. Both parties and both branches should work in close consultation. (It appears the president doesn’t recognize the authority of the judicial branch in the fight on terror.)

And one of the first steps we can take together is to add to the ranks of our military so that the American Armed Forces are ready for all the challenges ahead. Tonight I ask the Congress to authorize an increase in the size of our active Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 in the next five years. (Do you feel a draft?)

What the president didn't mention is just as interesting such as drilling in ANWR, New Orleans and its recovery after Katrina and the recent Chinese missile crisis and speaks volumes about his priorities.

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