January 31, 2006
Vol. 9, No. 5
In this issue:
This year's presidential harangue is being framed as more thematic than programmatic, which is to say, the laundry list will be shorter. But George Bush still has much to get done with the speech, not the least of which is to get the GOP back on the offensive. That may prove difficult given the topics Bush is expected to tackle.
Illegal immigration remains a hot-button with the GOP conservative base, so Bush will likely linger there. But that base also utterly abhors previous Bush administration moves toward a guest-worker program: "Amnesty," conservatives snort. Unless Bush comes out for some of the reforms kicked around in the House, such as an end to birthright citizenship, all Bush can offer is more spending on border control.
More spending will also be a theme with regard to health care and the Medicare drug benefit, well on its way to becoming the entitlement that ate Washington. Still, Bush will want to remind seniors that Republicans handed them this goodie, not Democrats. There will also be some gestures toward cutting discretionary spending, but next to the mammoth growth in entitlement spending, they will be insignificant.
Bush will also seek to entrench the spin that authorizing the National Security Agency's domestic spying program was the only right and rational course to take in time of war, and that Bush seeks only to protect the American people. This sets him apart from both Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Or so the theory goes.
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The timing of Bush's address also gives him an opportunity to again call on Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist. But the heavy lifting on this front is being done by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as she tries to persuade Europe to stay away from Hamas despite the group's sudden electoral success in Palestine.
Germany is already on board with that approach, saying it will never give aid to a Palestinian National Authority that does not recognize Israel. So far, so good on that front.
There is even an emerging view inside Israel that Hamas victory simplifies matters a great deal and, for that reason, is probably a net good. Hamas can either move to some sort of co-existence platform or continue with a de facto war stance. Either way, the thinking goes, the group must declare its intentions without delay.
The ritualistic nailing of the bureaucrat to the wall is in full swing in Congress, this time over the Federal Emergency Management Agency's response to Katrina. Initial damning finding: FEMA did not know what to do with 400 Fish and Wildlife Officers and 11 aircraft offered it by the Interior Department. Off with their heads!
Lawmakers might just as easily fault Interior for offering the stuff, as a glut of people and planes cannot undo the devastation caused by a storm. There is no simple way for any federal bureaucracy, no matter how well funded, no matter how well organized, to alleviate the various problems caused by the complete removal of modern civil society from some portion of America.
Evacuation of threatened areas is the best way to protect lives, but that does not require billions in pork barrel spending. Hence congressional fascination with finding fault with how federal assets are deployed post-disaster.
Quote of the Week
"Bush, do you know where I am? I am among the Muslim masses."—Ayman al-Zawahri, in a videotape message referencing recent U.S. air strikes in Pakistan which targeted al-Zawahri.
Video of the Stars
The city of Los Angeles is suing the makers of the Grand Theft Auto video game franchise for making misleading statements in marketing the game and engaging in unfair competition. The city attorney contends that the game should have been rated Adults Only due to some racy hidden content.
Alito to the Court
The Democrats sad rump of a filibuster will not keep Sam Alito from the Supreme Court for long.
Spies Aren't Us
Turns out that not all the folks squeamish about the Bush administration turning the NSA loose were sandal-wearing hippies. Some worked inside the Bush Justice Department.
No Cash For Condemners
Bank strikes a blow against Kelo. Jeff A. Taylor
Three personal accounts of modern Iran. Michael Young
Euthanize Federal Mission Creep
Oregon's assisted suicide law saved by Supreme Court's liberal justices. Shikha Dalmia
And much more!
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