Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

President’s Speech Stays the Wrong Course

Say what you will about him, but President Bush sure knows how to lay on the charm. In his affected folksy style, the president opened his State of the Union message Tuesday night by graciously congratulating Nancy Pelosi on becoming the first female Speaker of the House. These words were his only real acknowledgement in the speech of the sea change that has taken place in American politics since last year’s midterm elections.

Couched in the rhetoric of bipartisanship and change, the actual substance of the President’s proposals represented more of the same failed policies that the American people rejected in November.

The president’s health care proposal, for example, does little to help the 47 million Americans without healthcare, because these folks don’t make enough money to qualify for the proposal’s tax deduction. Additionally, by eliminating the current tax incentive for companies that offer health insurance to their workers, the plan threatens to undermine the employer-based healthcare system while failing to offer a real alternative for American families. The president’s new plan is just another in a long string of attempts by his administration to shirk responsibility for critical healthcare issues using ill-conceived changes to the tax code.

Healthcare wasn’t the only policy arena in which the president made the old new again. Perhaps influenced by Al Gore’s two Oscar nominations for “An Inconvenient Truth,” the President seemed to clarify his stance on energy and the environment. For the first time, he acknowledged that “global climate change” was a major concern, something many Republicans denied up until a few months ago. The President’s grudging assent to what has long been the scientific consensus was welcome news, but it’s hard to take his rhetoric seriously.

Recall that in last year’s speech, the president declared that America was “addicted to oil” and pledged to reduce consumption. Only a week later, however, the president cut funding for alternative energy research. Moreover, the president’s failure to call for mandatory, enforceable caps on carbon emissions and his continued emphasis on domestic oil production undercut any claim that he is actually committed to substantive change on energy and environmental policy.

It was on the issue of Iraq, however, that the President displayed the most egregious example of his “stay the course” mentality and where Georgetown students should be most disappointed. Fortunate as we are to be studying at a top university, we owe it to our peers fighting overseas to demand a sensible strategy in Iraq. Yet all we got from the

president was more of the same failed policies that have put too many of our soldiers in harm’s way.

Ignoring military and civilian experts, members of Congress from both parties, and the overwhelming majority of the American people, the president reiterated his plan to escalate the war in Iraq by sending a surge of 21,500 more American troops into Iraq – a country many regard as in a state of civil war.

The president justified his decision to send the troops by saying that Congress and the American people “did not vote for failure” in Iraq. Yet he seemed oblivious to the fact that there can be no greater failure in Iraq than an indefinite commitment that props up an incompetent government, pushes American military forces to the breaking point and continues to serve as a key recruiting tool for radical Islamists.

Though the president’s speech made it clear that he intends to operate as if little has changed here in Washington, the rest of the country knows what we Democrats know: The American people didn’t vote for failure when they elected Democrats to majorities in the House and Senate – they voted against the failed policies of President Bush and

the Republicans. That’s why Democrats have been pursuing an aggressive and forward-looking agenda in their first weeks in power.

Democrats in Congress voted to raise the minimum wage and fully implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. They have taken on the challenge of energy by rolling back Bush’s massive tax cuts for big oil and by proposing new funding for alternative fuels. They have proven their commitment to education by voting to dramatically reduce interest rates on student loans, something which will help a great many Georgetown students.

On Iraq, Democrats stand united in their opposition to escalating the number of American troops in the country, and we are calling for a phased redeployment in the next six months to force the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own security. Simultaneously, we want an aggressive and genuine diplomatic effort in the region and the wider world to mobilize Iraq’s neighbors and the international community to help reduce sectarian strife and continue reconstruction.

Even if President Bush can’t seem to acknowledge that “staying the course” just won’t work, we Democrats will continue to work for a new direction for our country. And as for Madam Speaker, well, let’s just say: It was about time.

Ryan Guptill is a freshman in the College and director of research for the Georgetown University College Democrats.

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