His best moment? I'm not sure there was one. The speech was delivered well, yada yada yada, but it was same old same old and given his weakened political position, really lacking in anything new or interesting. I was heartened somewhat by his open embrace of at least a temporary guest worker program, which is in line with his position on immigration going back years. It seems likely that something like the Senate's immigration reform bill stands a chance of passing this year, which is the least bad option when it comes to such legislation.
Most nauseating moment for me personally beyond all the foreign policy stuff: The shout-out at the end to the creator of the Baby Einstein videos, Julie Aigner-Clark. On a certain level, the Baby Einstein phenomenon (and you know about it if you have kids) is the perfect embodiment of yuppie angst about our children and their place in the world–our rugrats can't get out of diapers without having been dazzled and improved by endlessly watching expensive, whirling toys to a classical-music backbeat it seems. Yet the BE stuff is good product, a real cut above a lot of the other, even more tedious crap that's out there for kids. However, my objection is the way Bush tries to take credit through association for the $200 million company she built (what, was he key grip on Baby da Vinci: From Head to Toe?). Screw that, pal. I realize these semi-celebrity shout-outs are part and parcel of State of the Union Addresses, but that hardly makes them more palatable.
And here's the full text of the reply by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.). His best moments came when discussing foreign policy. To wit:
The president took us into this war recklessly. He disregarded warnings from the national security adviser during the first Gulf War, the chief of staff of the Army, two former commanding generals of the Central Command, whose jurisdiction includes Iraq, the director of operations on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and many, many others with great integrity and long experience in national security affairs. We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable—and predicted—disarray that has followed.
That's all well and good, except for the fact that while Bush has prosecuted the war (or, more precisely, the occupation) poorly beyond belief, he had Congress' backing all the way. This isn't to elide Bush's responsibility, but with very few exceptions (and given that Webb wasn't in office at the time the war resolution passed, he is an exception), Congress deserves just as much opprobrium.
Webb's weakest moments? Invoking Andrew Jackson, one of our lousiest and bloodiest presidents, and laying the class warfare line thicker than the scar on Jackson's hand:
In short, the middle class of this country, our historic backbone and our best hope for a strong society in the future, is losing its place at the table. Our workers know this, through painful experience. Our white-collar professionals are beginning to understand it, as their jobs start disappearing also. And they expect, rightly, that in this age of globalization, their government has a duty to insist that their concerns be dealt with fairly in the international marketplace.
This is a generic invocation of economic insecurity that is not a particularly sharp reflection of contemporary American society. Home ownership rates at or near historic highs? More than a decade of extremely low unemployment? Two-thirds of kids going on from high school to college (also at or near historic highs [see table 265])? All this stuff doesn't square with Webb's dire message. Not that it won't resonate with voters who want more pork spending for themselves.