As the President prepares to give the State of the Union address, one cannot help but be reminded of the classic blues lyrics,
I have had my fun if I never get well no more.
All of my health is failing,
Lord, I'm goin' down slow.
Bush is slowly sinking and he's dragging the rest of us down with him.
The President's recent radio addresses laid out themes that no doubt will be the features of his speech on the 31st: progress towards "victory" in Iraq, development of a "strong" economy, and "being responsible with the taxpayers' money."
The President will wax effusive on Iraq. "As freedom and democracy take hold in a troubled region, we are making the American people safer here at home, and laying the foundation of peace for future generations." Never mind that outside the White House most observers strongly disagree with the President. Democratic Congressman John Murtha called Bush's Iraq stance, "a flawed policy wrapped in illusion." Regan-era National Security Agency director, Lieutenant General William Odom, called the occupation, "the greatest strategic disaster in United States history." At the end of the year, the 9/11 commission issued a status report on the efforts of the Bush Administration to prevent another attack on the homeland. The Project concluded, "We are not as safe as we need to be... there is so much more to be done." "Many obvious steps that the American people assume have been completed, have not been... Some of these failures are shocking." The 9/11 Project observed, "Our leadership is distracted." Distracted because of Iraq.
George Bush pushed America into an unnecessary invasion of Iraq. It is his responsibility to get us out of the mess we're in. So far, his response has been to play let's pretend. He insists on pretending that progress is being made towards the democratization of Iraq. He pretends that the occupation is making us more secure, building a framework for peace in the Middle East. The Bush ministry of propaganda, under the direction of Karl Rove, helps maintain the President's illusion by relentlessly bombarding the American people with messages of false hope.
In his state-of-the union speech, the President will boast of his role in strengthening the economy. "Our economy has been growing strongly for more than two years, and has added nearly 4.5 million jobs since May of 2003." The problem is that the economy has been adding an average of 200,000 jobs per month but needs to add 210,000 just to keep up with population growth. And the new jobs aren't high wage jobs; they are low wage or "temporary" positions with no benefits. Bush will repeat claims that "Real disposable income is up, [and] consumers are confident." Real disposable income is up on the average, but down for middle and lower classes; the economy has not been a rising tide that's lifted all boats, merely the yachts of the rich. And, confidence may be up in the gated communities where Republicans gather to toast the President, but not for average Americans. the January 9-12 Gallup poll found that "39% of American consumers say economic conditions in the country as a whole are 'getting better' right now, compared to 52% who say they are 'getting worse.'"
Finally, in the parallel universe, Bush world, where the White House finds their version of reality, the President has been a good steward of the Federal budget. "To keep our economy moving forward, we must continue to pursue sound policies in Washington and be wise with taxpayers' money. We made real progress this year in restraining government spending...[I am] being responsible with the taxpayers' money." George conveniently forgets the cost of the Iraq war - $234 Billion based on Congressional appropriations. Recently, an academic study estimated the total cost to be closer to $2 Trillion . In Bush world, these costs are off the books; they aren't part of the Federal budget. From this imaginative perspective, the President can even boast of reducing the Federal deficit - currently $8.1 Trillion . The reality is that the federal deficit continues to grown at the rate of $2 Billion per day. It is perilously close to the $8.2 Trillion debt ceiling .
If Americans did live in a parallel universe, we could afford to look at Bush's disingenuousness with detachment, even amusement. Sadly, we live in a world where the President's policies are taking us all down slow.
The average American shakes their head and wonders what to do. But, George W. Bush doesn't care what the public thinks. He gets counsel from a small group of cronies. Perhaps the last stanza of the blues classic contains some folksy wisdom Americans can use to their advantage.
Please write my mother and tell her the shape I'm in.
Tell her to pray for me,
Forgive me for my sin.
Barbara, please help! George is failing and we're goin' down slow.