George W. Bush used his State of the Union address to ask Americans to stay the course with him, and his policies. In so doing, he illustrated the dramatic disconnect between the Bush administration and reality.
What would staying the course on foreign policy mean?
- Maintaining for an indefinite period the occupation of Iraq, where more than 500 American lives have already been lost.
- Continuing to pursue the morally bankrupt policy of unilateral, pre-emptive war, which sets the United States up as a policeman of the world - and as the primary target for the violent provocateurs that Bush's "war on terrorism" has so far failed to control.
- Abandoning multilateral efforts to protect the environment, guard against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and address crises such as AIDS in Africa.
- Losing additional manufacturing and service jobs as the United States negotiates new free trade agreements that ease the way for corporations to shift production from country to country in a race-to-the-bottom search for lower wages and standards.
What would staying the course on domestic policy mean?
- Accepting the collapse of vital industries and the manufacturing jobs they have provided for communities across the country.
- Abandoning any hope that the decline in the number of family farms could be slowed, or perhaps even reversed, by a shift in policies to favor working farmers rather than agribusiness.
- Submitting to a corporate-dictated regimen of deregulation and decreased oversight of air and water quality, workplace safety and the corporate monopolies that have come to dominate food production, retailing and even the media.
- Further warping our courts via the appointment of extreme right-wing judicial activists, and decreasing the federal government's commitment to protect the civil rights and civil liberties of all citizens.
When a president asks the American people to "stay the course" with him, he is really asking them to accept the unacceptable for a little longer. Sometime, the demands of the moment make that an acceptable request. For instance, Franklin Roosevelt was right to ask Americans to stay the course in the first days of the New Deal because, while his interventions had not yet reversed the economic devastation wrought by the Great Depression, they held out the prospect of such a reversal.
But a president whose tenure has made America and the world a more dangerous place, and whose administration has presided over the loss of more than 2.3 million American jobs, is not in a position to ask Americans to stay the course.
George W. Bush had an opportunity last night to admit the mistakes of his first term and to tell the American people how he would try to address them. Instead, he asked us to stay the course through 2004.
Far from reassuring Americans, Bush's address left us hoping - as we know tens of millions of Americans do - that the president who delivers the State of the Union address in 2005 will set a radically different course.
Copyright 2004 The Capital Times