My reaction to President Bush’s State of the Union address is pretty simple: he was stronger in speaking about foreign policy issues, weaker when speaking about domestic policy issues. Charlie Gibson of ABC News noted that presidents become more interested in foreign policy as their terms progress. This is simultaneously true and absurd. The president’s main consitutional responsibilities are in foreign policy and the military (another aspect, as Klausewitz reminded us, of foreign policy). We have fifty state governors who have no responsibilities whatever in foreign policy. A 51st super-governor is excessive.
But, since the Great Depression of the 1930’s, that’s what we’ve been electing. Both Clinton and Bush ran on domestic policy platforms and found to their surprise that whether they’re interested in it or prepared for it or not foreign policy in all of its aspects will thrust itself upon the president.
For voters who support Bush solely on the basis of a commitment to prosecute the War on Terror (or whatever we’re calling it now) vigorously, this speech was probably good news. For others, not so much.
Mr. Bush touched on a number of domestic issues: tax policy, education, health care, immigration, energy policy, honesty in government, entitlement programs. In several cases he called for bi-partisan solutions. Democratic partisans are likely to find this insincere; Republican partisans are likely to find it futile.
Others commenting on the SOTU include Joe Gandelman of The Moderate Voice who seems to be substantially more discouraged about it than I was, Stephen Green, the Vodkapundit, slightly less discouraged.
UPDATE: Since writing this post I’ve posted additional thoughts on the State of the Union address: