Politics

Full Text of State of the Union Address and Dems' Reply by Sen. Webb

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Here's the transcript of Bush's speech.

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.

NEXT: The Passion of the Clark

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  1. except for the problem that most of the current nation’s “prosperity” is phony and based on credit instead of actual outright ownership of property. When you have to spend 30 years to pay for your house, 5 years to pay for your car, etc.

    I guess you can choose to have other alternatives, live in a van down by the river, etc., but a debtor can never be truly free. The middle class has indeed been targeted by both government and private financial industry for rape, and it shows.

  2. Shame on Nick for ruining a good post by resorting to the canard of accusing anybody concerned with the economic situation in our country to be provoking “class warfare”.

  3. Nick,

    “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.”

    Senator Webb wasn’t giving Congress’s rebuttal; he was giving the Democrats’ rebuttal. A majority of Democrats, even in Congress, opposed the war even before it began, and within six months to a year, virtually all Democrats were denouncing Bush’s handling of it.

    And yeah, it’s pretty lame to drag out the “class warfare” canard whenever someone suggests that the well-being of the middle class and working people isn’t precisely coterminus with that of the people at the very top. You might as well accuse anyone who says there is a problem with racism of waging a race war. Lame.

  4. With Democrats — and apparently the posters above — the glass is half empty.
    It will always be half empty.

  5. Jackson’s scar (from British officer’s saber) was on his forehead. Not to say he didn’t have scars on his hands, too.

    News reports indicate some 80 GOP congressmen might be persuaded to vote against the surge.
    So where is the resolution to forbid the Prez from sending any more troops?

  6. I guess you can choose to have other alternatives, live in a van down by the river, etc., but a debtor can never be truly free.

    Or you can do without cable, drive a Hyundai instead of a Lexus, get your jeans at Wal-Mart rather than Lucky, cook at home instead of eating out, brew your own coffee, etc.

    We cry middle class squeeze in this country as we rock out to $300 iPods and play $900 PS3s. If you want financial freedom keep the credit cards in your wallet. Save money and pay cash. Maybe pay down your mortgage and car note before you buy little Cody and Britney their new pair of Uggz.

    Saying it’s the credit card company’s fault I’m up to my eyeballs in debt is like saying it’s the bartender’s fault that I got loaded and slammed my car into a family of four.

  7. creech,

    Kennedy (D-MA) and Dodd (D-CT) have both filed bills to do exactly that in the Senate. I don’t know about the House.

  8. clearly we are in Hooverville. When a person has to drive somewhere and do things in order to receive things to get things, that person can nver be free. Lets see, I’ve seen about 400 news articles on how bad the economy is, every night people are spewing how the middle class is hurting with their cars and houses and microwaves and one guy says it’s BS and, oh no, that’s lame, don’t ever ever ever try and point out BS.

  9. Tim – nobody’s forcing you to use credit cards or finance purchases. You’re welcome to save your money and pay cash for your crib and your ride.

    Joe – lots of big names on the ‘D’ side voted for the war. I know there’s the whole “if I vote against it, then I’m framed as soft on terrorism, etc.,” but what about their principles? You sound like Kerry’s infamous “for the war before I was against it” line.

    Finally, the reason the class warfare card comes out is because the nation is doing well economically, and the only way to fuel people into a populist dem-supporting rage is to point out that rich people are doing even better. All the major indicators say that the lower and middle classes are doing better also, but they just can’t seem to catch up to rich people. “Damn those rich people! Tax them and give the money to us – the neglected majority in the other classes! Someone please wipe this froth from my mouth so I can continue ranting about how I’m not rich and that’s not fair!”

  10. The fact that wages are the lowest share of national wealth in American history, and that this is the result of a long-term trend, is not BS.

    No matter how much you may feel that the proles have it as good as they deserve.

  11. Thanks, joe, for pointing out that the middle class is in the middle.

  12. Mike,

    By “lots,” you mean “well less than a majority.” Yep, a minority of the Democrats in Congress got it wrong at the beginning – a minority which immediately began to shrink as the case for that war collapsed, and the incompetance of its prosecution became apparent. It really doesn’t matter to me what that “sounds like” to you; them’s the facts.

    “Finally, the reason the class warfare card comes out is because the nation is doing well economically…” in the aggregate. On the other hand, poverty is up and wages have barely budged since the 1970s. Some of up beleive that the entire country needs to do well for the economy to be working, and are unwilling to concede that a family slipping out of the middle class is in any way made up for by a rich family becoming super-rich.

  13. Thanks, ed, for missing the point in a self-serving, dismissive, and content-free manner.

  14. “Finally, the reason the class warfare card comes out is because the nation is doing well economically…”

    Oh, that’s right – we never see this charge levelled during recessions.

  15. joe,

    I haven’t counted for the House yet, but in the Senate 29 Democrats voted for the joint resolution allowing the United States Armed Forces to attack Iraq, 21 Democrats against.

  16. Ah, if you take Democrats in Congress as a whole, counting the House, where 81 Dems for, 126 against, then yes, a majority of Democrats in Congress were against the war in Iraq.

    Which shows that elected senators are scum, and at least House members have the balls to stand on principal rather than worry about their Presidential possibilities if they vote according to said principal.

  17. That’s so noble Joe – the whole “If this massively expensive social program prevents one family from dropping below the arbitrarily-drawn poverty line, then it will be worth it” routine. Maybe you could raise the min wage again since I’ve seen a lot of middle class white high school kids in my suburban neighborhood driving cars from the early 90’s and drinking cheap beer on the weekends. Maybe you could start giving free money to people because they’re poor. I’ll bet that will wipe the problem right out. Maybe you should give free housing and food and medical care to the poor. I’ll bet that would make a huge difference. Of course, by free, I mean please let me and my taxpayer dollars pay for those things for you.

  18. jf – 60% of senate dems supported the war, and 40% of house dems did. Is that really a big enough difference to level charges of senators being scum and house members being shining examples of priciples and ethics? What about the 40% of senate dems that voted against? Are they scum? Or are they principled people who randomly landed in the senate rather than the house? Are the 40% of dems in the house that voted for the war just senators who haven’t yet been elected to their rightful position?

  19. I guess you can choose to have other alternatives, live in a van down by the river, etc.

    I wouldn’t be so sure of that. Did you read yesterday’s post?

  20. jf,

    I think the difference is that the Senate has more a culture of comity, while the House is more combative, rather than Reps being better or ballsier than Senators.

    Mike,

    I hope that made you feel better. It certainly didn’t contribute anything to the discussion, which in case you didn’t notice, isn’t about social programs, the minimum wage, or any policy debates whatsoever.

  21. Mike,

    You got me. I oversimplified.

  22. Two things:

    I was happy to hear such strong words on the earmarks issue (although I hold little hope that anything will be done), and…

    Did anyone see the shot of Ted “get your SCUBA gear” Kennedy falling asleep during the speech?

    OK, well, three things:

    Does anyone see any parallels between this new “spirit of unity” in Washington and the spirit of unity theme in this season’s Rome?

    P.S. I realize the TV show is a dramatization, but it was just more fresh on my mind.

  23. “It certainly didn’t contribute anything to the discussion, which in case you didn’t notice, isn’t about social programs, the minimum wage, or any policy debates whatsoever.”

    Uh, I thought this was about the State of the Union address and the Dem response. I thought Bush and Webb mentioned economic policy. I also thought Joe was the one who came in with the non-sequitor “fact that wages are the lowest share of national wealth in American history” (please tell how you can compare a flow and stock in a single share measure?), and that Mike was responding to that. Maybe I’m just confused. Or maybe Joe has as little a rhetorical clue as he does an economic one.

  24. …or maybe the discussion on the thread was about the underlying economy, and whether discussing the distribution of gains counts as “class warfare,” which is wholly distinct topic from economic policy.

    Some of us actually like the policy descriptions to follow from the facts, and talk about those facts before formulating policy.

  25. “Did anyone see the shot of Ted “get your SCUBA gear” Kennedy falling asleep during the speech?”

    Did anyone else notice that Webb was fighting off an attack of the giggles halfway through his speech?

  26. Many Senators mistakenly believe they will be President one day. This delusion often leads to words and votes that are mislabeled as statesmanlike when they are actually CYA shenanigans.

    You see a lot less of this in the House except in the leadership and in the really ambitious ones. In the House it’s all about the next election.

  27. That’s part of it, de stijl.

    But look at the continued existence of the filibuster, which is both a cause and an effect of the greater emphasis the Senate places on consensus vs. majoritarianism.

    Senators have been known to make gentlemen’s agreements to refrain from voting when a colleague is out of town, so that his absence won’t change the outcome of a vote. There’s no way anything like that could ever happen in the House.

  28. “The fact that wages are the lowest share of national wealth in American history, and that this is the result of a long-term trend, is not BS.”

    There is no such thing as “national wealth” in the first place. Wealth doesn’t belong to “the nation” – it belongs to the specific individuals who have acquired it.

    What definitely IS BS is that it is any business of the federal government to be trying to redistribute wealth between any economic class of people just for the sake of doing so.

  29. I’ve noticed the parallels on Rome this season too.They play loose with history, but they capture the essence of what the political intrigue of the time must have been like. Great freaking show.

  30. Webb referred to the “national wealth.” That term is curious to me.

    joe – I saw him fighting the giggles too. That was the first time I saw him smile, and I voted for him.

  31. I watched the speech with HDNet and then participated in a televised discussion. My biggest concerns are the 92000 active troops increase over 5 years and the healthcare proposal.

    I said that we should get our troops out now and as safely as we can for us. You would have thought that I asked for a terrorist attack. Two people basically said that all muslims cannot control themselves and that we had to be there to police the region. The segment was live and I am recalling how it seemed in the moment.

    It also seems that this healthcare proposal is going to be a backdoor tax.

    Bright spot: I do think the cheesy shout out portion can be morphed into a libertarian video as a demonstration of private charity and innovation.

  32. looks like Gilbert beat me to the “national wealth” comment. That’s what I get for getting interrupted with this “work” crap intermittently.

  33. Gilbert,

    By your reasoning, there is no such thing as an epidemic, because each sick person has an individual illness.

    That wealth belongs to individuals does not mean that broad economic phenomena do not exist. Once again, we find economic conservatives putting the cart before the horse, and allowing their policy preferences to cloud their view of objective reality. Wages really are the lowest share of all the money in the United States than they have ever been, even though they are paid one employer and one employee at a time.

    Cab, did you notice he cheeks turn red? I think someone behind the camera did something funny, or caught his eye and reminded him of a running joke, or something.

  34. It appears that denial of the collective is a key component of libertarian thought.

    It makes me wonder: do libertarians watch football, since there’s no such thing as a team?

  35. A majority of Democrats, even in Congress, opposed the war even before it began, and within six months to a year, virtually all Democrats were denouncing Bush’s handling of it.

    Which they made abundantly clear by voting to authorize military force.

    Not to hate on the Dems too much specifically, hell, I was pretty hawkish on Iraq myself and I’ll tell you that I turned out to be pretty wrong about that, but it’s pretty lame to claim you were “opposed all along” and then vote for the bill and the spending packages anyway*. Par for the course for elected officials, but pretty lame anyway.

    *Credit where credit is due, the majority of House Democrats did vote against the AUMF against Iraq with the vote coming to 81-126. If I counted the roll call correctly it looks like 29-20 in favor from the Dems in the Senate (Jeffords also voted against as did Lincoln Chaffee – R).

  36. After talking about Iraq, Webb soons disappointments. Strong start, then goes into the typical Dem-Automaton mode on the pillars of Dem domestic policy: class envy, and trying to get something from nothing. At least I should be happy he didn’t play the racecard.

  37. Timothy,

    Nice contradiction. You just told us that a majority of Democrats voted for the AUMF, then provide the numbers proving yourself wrong.

    It’s rare to see that.

  38. joe – yeah. I think the teleprompter slowed down a tad. He had an awkward moment right before he started smirking. I kept thinking that I hope he doesn’t do a “spit take” right in the middle of talking about what is essentially a bloodbath in Iraq.

    Also, I read the speech on Drudge beforehand and wanted him to get off the last few lines in a powerful manner. He composed himself and did the last few sentences justice.

    “Tonight we are calling on this president to take similar action, in both areas. If he does, we will join him. If he does not, we will be showing him the way.”

  39. “By your reasoning, there is no such thing as an epidemic, because each sick person has an individual illness.”

    No – that is an inappropriate analogy. An illness is a condition – it is not something that is “owned”.

    Wealth IS something that is owned. Those who use the phrase “national wealth” are trying to imply some collective ownership relationship that does not exist.

    “Once again, we find economic conservatives putting the cart before the horse, and allowing their policy preferences to cloud their view of objective reality.”

    The objective reality is that there aren’t any legitimate “policy preferences” to consider. The 10th Amendment requires the federal government to confine itself to powers delegated to it by ennumeration in the Constitution. There is no ennumerated power delegated therein related to trying to “manange” the distribution of wealth between economic classes of people in the country.

  40. I’m glad someone else noticed Webb’s good fight against the giggles too. I imagined something like the scene in the Simpsons where Wiggum starts cracking up in a press conference because Lou and the other cop are goofing off with a monkey, or some such situation, going on off camera…
    I’m far more worried about Bush’s health care proposal than Webb’s vague talk about economic fairness. If the minimum wage passes then maybe 1 cent (hey, where is the cent symbol on my keyboard? WTF, is it considered obselete like pennies now or something) will be added to the price of my hamburgers. But I worked hard to get generous health care, and I would like it if Bush does not tax mine to fund someone elses.

  41. Joe – if social policy is off limits in this particular comments section, then what’s your solution to the broad economic phenomena of low wages (presumably as % of GDP)?

    Also, how is the economy “in aggregate” doing so well despite the dire wage circumstances you describe?

  42. Sorry Joe. I assumed that government policies designed to address income inequality and wealth distribution might be germain to the topic of whether or not somebody concerned with those things is playing the class card. I now understand that your hope for the government to “fix” income inequality has no relationship to actual government policy. Thanks for clarifying.

  43. Wealth IS something that is owned. Those who use the phrase “national wealth” are trying to imply some collective ownership relationship that does not exist.

    But it does exist. If a group consists of 5 people who own $100 each, then it’s accurate to say that the group owns $500.

  44. joe,
    you keep saying that wages are the “lowest share of american wealth in history”. what does wealth mean? percent of the GDP? If so there are two explanations that would make this statistic actually mean good things for “the workers”. One explanation would be that wage workers have shifted to salary (most people I know prefer salary). The other explanation would be that more none wage jobs were created than wage jobs. Now even if you’re saying that (once adjusted for inflation etc.) todays wage workers are paid less than the wage workers of yester years I think the explanation could be that today’s wage workers are even more replaceable than they were in the past because the job pool is so competitive. That is, when the rest of the world tries to work really hard and get college degrees etc. and you do nothing to keep up with the competition then of course you will get proportionally less wages. Furthermore, a low proportion doesn’t mean worse off if we’re all better off (not zero sum). Just from looking around me at the workers (I’m right about at “the poverty line”) and a statistics I’ve heard (similar to those quoted above) I’m inclined to think that today’s worker is better off than the workers in the past. Point is Webb made a pretty strong statement about what the working class “knows” when frankly they don’t. Anytime you say “we know” when you don’t you’re creating an us versus them attitude that I think is fairly characterized as “laying on the class warfare line.”

    Nobody will read this because it’s too long.

  45. “But it does exist. If a group consists of 5 people who own $100 each, then it’s accurate to say that the group owns $500.”

    Wrong.

    The essence of ownership is control. The “group” is not an entity that has control over $500. Each individual has conrol over his $100. If three of the five people decide they want to “collectively” spend $500 on something, they cannot compel the other two to put up their $200 to get it done.

  46. That’s pathetic, Gil. “Owned” vs. “condition” is irrelevant to the question at hand, which is whether a feature can be described in terms of both its relationship to an individual and its relationship to a broader group.

    And thank for making clear that your beliefs about what are and are not “appropriate” policy is what determines your view of objective facts.

    Mike,

    Let’s not put the cart before the horse. Diagnoisis, then prescription is a better strategy than the converse. Policy prescriptions are one direction a discussion of a problem can go, but I’m going to stick to the original topic here.

  47. America has a population of 300,000,000. OMG, Gil, I just totally said the government owned us!

    America has fifty states. OMG, I just said the states were subdivisions of the government!

    The people on my block keep their houses in good condition. OMG, I just said that we jointly own all the houses on my block!

    Oh, no, wait, I didn’t say anything of the sort. Nevermind.

  48. Joe,

    Putting aside the completely philosophical argument over “group wealth”, maybe you can explain if your concern is really the ratio of wages to aggregate national wealth (in the “net worth” sense) or the ratio of wages to GDP (which is also a flow, and therefore somewhat comparable to wage levels)?

    I imagine you (and Webb for that matter) don’t really mean wealth so much as GDP?

  49. Guidebook for Presidential Speeches/Responses:

    1. If you’re a Rebulican, mention 9-11.
    2. If you’re a Democrat, mention Katrina.

  50. “And thank for making clear that your beliefs about what are and are not “appropriate” policy is what determines your view of objective facts.”

    It is an objective fact that the 10th Amendment to the Constitution does, in fact, exist. It is an objective fact that said Amendment confines the federal government to powers delegated to it by ennumeration in the Constitution. It is an objective fact that there is NO power delegated by ennumeration in that document that relates to deliberatly redistributing wealth between economic classes of US citizens.

  51. (andronoid: break it up into paragraphs – that’ll help)

    (also – can’t look up/verify the various statistics or conditions cited here, so can’t comment)

  52. The essence of ownership is control. The “group” is not an entity that has control over $500. Each individual has conrol over his $100. If three of the five people decide they want to “collectively” spend $500 on something, they cannot compel the other two to put up their $200 to get it done.

    They can compel them if they make it a condition of being a member of their group.

    Just like America can compel you to pay taxes as a condition of being a part of the country.

  53. (most people I know prefer salary)

    This is just as anecdotal as your example, but no one I know prefers salary. Salary tends to equal slavery, as I have seen salary workers severely overworked many times (60-80 hours a week, while pay is still based on 40-45)

    Perhaps it’s just a difference in our fields, but everyone I know does their best to hold out for hourly.

    Nobody will read this because it’s too long.

    Wrong again 😉

  54. VM – actually say something other than put down everyone elses post in a prick like manner… that’ll help there, buddy.

  55. Jon,

    I would compare wages to GDP, and household wealth to “national wealth.”

    andronoid,

    First, the figure is “employee wages and salary” – I was using shorthand.

    Second, this growing disparity is occuring even as the producitivity of those American workers is rising, not falling.

    Third, what makes you think that Webb is talking about some exclusive “we” when he says that “we know” about these economic trends?

    And finally, recognizing that there are disparate impacts and interests among groups is not the equivalent of advocating warfare among them. Fascists and Communists believe that society can only solve its problems when everyone has the same interests and experiences; liberal socieities believe that these differences can be worked out peacefully.

  56. “They can compel them if they make it a condition of being a member of their group.”

    YOU are the one defining five ramdom people as a “group” – not them.

  57. I don’t think I said they were five random people – to be a group in any sort of social sense requires some sort of common interest.

  58. Change any minds yet, joe?
    Made any converts?
    3+ years is a hell of a losing streak.

  59. Umm, Webb’s a fan of Andrew Jackson, who was the hero of the Battle of New Orleans (War of 1812).

  60. I here because it’s fun to argue with smart people, face-thingy-guy.

    I go to liberal blogs, and they’re full of smart people who agree with me.

    I go to right wing blogs, and they’re full of people who are definitely up for a fight, but they’re idiots.

    But this one was just right.

  61. Think of progressive taxes as the insurance rich people pay against getting hanged from lampposts when the proles finally have a revolution.

    There’s a good reason to worry about wealth disparity. Historically it has been particularly disrupting if it looks like one sector of the population is getting very rich while the rest are getting poorer and having to take on more risk. And remember, there are always more peasants than there are aristocrats. If it comes down to a straight one-person one-vote backed up with a bullet, I know which side has more firepower.

    We have tolerated a great wealth disparity in this country because of the belief that Anyone Can Rise To The Top Through Hard Work (the Horatio Alger schtick) and a belief that each generation was, on the whole, able to have it better than their parents.

    If people do not believe it anymore? Then you will see a lot of upheaval in the US. Envy and despair are very powerful emotions as well. Saying to people that their having such emotions is illogical and silly will not convince them that they are wrong. You will be simply seen as shills and enablers for the power-holders in an unfair system.

    Geez, don’t any of you guys read history?

  62. C’mon, by now the only Americans who aren’t rich are so stupid they deserve to be poor. I mean, how can anybody fail to make it in such a booming market economy? There is no wealth disparity, just a brains disparity.

  63. “I here [sic] because it’s fun to argue with smart people.”

    Smart is very relative.

  64. Think of progressive taxes as the insurance rich people pay against getting hanged from lampposts when the proles finally have a revolution.

    We have tolerated a great wealth disparity in this country because of the belief that Anyone Can Rise To The Top Through Hard Work (the Horatio Alger schtick) and a belief that each generation was, on the whole, able to have it better than their parents.

    If people do not believe it anymore?

    Funny that the people always warning that the “proles” will revolt if they lose confidence in the system are usually the ones who attack confidence in the system.

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