George opened by praising the hundreds of thousands of military personell who are, "bringing hope to the oppressed, and delivering justice to the violent around the world". He emphasized that we Americans now have a choice - go forward with confidence and resolve, or turn back to the illusion of security and safety.
He then quickly turned the focus to homeland security. In what was clearly the most awkward moment of the speech, he was met with resounding, unexpected applause when he stated that some provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire next year. Recovering shakily, he pointed out that our law enforcement agencies still need these measures to fight crime and terror, and therefore they should be renewed by Congress.
Next, George highlighted the efforts in Afghanistan, declaring the US to be a friend of the men and women there who are building a nation that is free, proud, and fighting terror, even though elections there have been postponed indefinitely and terror reigns outside of the areas patrolled by the coalition - largely due to lack of resources, and interest. Turning his attention briefly to matters other than fighting terrorism and homeland security, George pointed out that the invasion and subjugation of Iraq has also left the people there liberated and free. Unlike Afghanistan, and given the vast number of military resources there, chaos is being controlled in Iraq for now, albeit at great cost to American lives. Nevertheless, as democracy takes hold in Iraq, we and our allies won't be shaken - and the people of Iraq will live in freedom, George said.
George then made a rather big deal out of Libya's recent concession to give up their WMDs. He tied this directly back to American leadership in Iraq, and asserted that Qadhafi has now decided that no WMDs makes Libya "better off" and more secure. Presumably, he doesn't want to be pulled out of a hole somewhere in the desert after being delivered for 25 million in reward money, either. No one can doubt the word of America, said George, or it's reward payments.
George then proceeded to chastise those within the chamber and without who did not support the invasion of Iraq, and those who don't consider the war on terror to be a war at all. He noted the Plans for the Programs for the Weapons of Mass Destruction and the equipment which have been found in Iraq. Had we failed to act, Iraq would still be a country full of these plans (and equipment) - albeit with legal nuclear storage canisters safely out of reach of the public looting and drinking water supply. In any case, Iraq probably would not be a better place (like Afghanistan), and there would certainly be no card decks depicting 55 "undesirables" which the American taxpayer has now payed more than 50 million dollars in reward money to apprehend.
George pointed to the more than two dozen countries which have independently supported the war there, praising our international partners in the action, and dismissing the objections of a few old world countries. We don't need a permission slip to defend our security" (against the plans and equipment), George said, and we'll be expecting a "higher standard" from our friends in the future. Furthermore, to combat propoganda, the US will be expanding our Voice of America broadcasts and multilingual, reliable news throughout the middle east.
Above all, the US will finish the work in Afghanistan and Iraq, said George. Never mind that democracy, gender equality, free markets, fair courts, and most of the other original goals have been largely abandoned for a shorter-term exit strategy in both countries.
America is a nation with a mission, George went on to say, and at home that mission is being carried out by the people who are spending their tax cuts to drive the economy forward. Low inflation, increased exports, and more jobs are the proof that Americans have used their tax cuts better than the government would have. George re-emphasized the various proposals and tax cuts which have been made and enacted during the last 4 years, encouraging congress to renew and make permanent many of them, for the continued benefit of the American people, and to further the aggressive, pro-growth economic agenda. In keeping with these reductions, the budget which will be submitted by the Bush administration in two weeks will limit the growth of discretionary spending to 4 percent, while simultaneously funding the war, protecting the homeland, and meet important domestic needs - and begin the process of halving the deficit during the next five years.
No mention was made of the trillion dollar deficit which is expected by the end of this year.
Education is the key to success in the new and growing economy, and the programs implemented by his administration and this Congress are helping every child to make progress, and helping adults to learn new skills to find new jobs, according to George. To that end, he outlined his first concrete proposal of the night, Jobs for the 21st Century. This program will promote and encourage advanced placement courses in High School, by awarding bigger Pell Grants to those who choose to strive to the AP level. Increased support for community colleges was also mentioned, although not defined.
Next up was the immigration proposal, the so-called "temporary worker program", which George claims will protect the homeland while simultaneously providing for citizenship opportunities for hard-working, law-abiding immigrants. George reaffirmed his opposition to amnesty, because it unfairly rewards those who break the law. Amnesty actually pardons all persons who've violated the immigration laws, so it's unclear why he believes it is unfair, but the formal definition probably isn't so very important to George.
The prescription act for the elderly was up next, and George spent a disproportionate amount of time reflecting on the bill, which has already been passed. Kissing up to the AARP seemed to be a significant priority in this speech, and George accomplished the task with vigor. Indebting generations of young taxpayers to support the new measure was not mentioned.
Finally, the focus turned to family, religion, faith, and race. Helping Americans make the Right Choices (tm) was the theme, and various programs including sexual abstinence, zero-tolerance, drug testing in the schools, restoration and codification of the Defense of Marriage act to forbid same-sex marriage, government supported faith-based charities, and even a call to professional athletes to cut down on anabolic steroids were the solutions.
Ex-convicts were also mentioned as a big problem in the US, with 600,000 of them being released this year. They need help too, according to George, and they'll get it from his second big proposal of the night, a 300 million dollar Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative to expand job training and placement services, provide transitional housing, and to help newly released convicts get mentoring, naturally including guidance from the faith-based groups mentioned previously.
In closing, George made mention of a letter he received from a young girl who wrote that she would like to help "save our country". His response to the girl, that she should, "Study hard in school, listen to your mom and dad, help someone in need, and when you and your friends see a man or woman in uniform, say "thank you", seemed to me to be a missed opportunity. After all the time he spent trumpeting the prescription act and kissing the AARP's ass, he should have told the girl to remember to respect her elders. Ah well, I guess Karl Rove can't think of everything.
And that was it. A couple of new proposals, lots of horn tooting, and plenty of allegory regarding the next 4 years. Our cause is the cause of all mankind, George concluded. And yet, we must trust in the higher power Who guides the unfolding of the years, knowing that His purposes are just and true.