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September 03, 2004

Bush: Expanding Liberty

As George Bush wound down his speech last night, I had two thoughts. The first was that in him, the promise of his father had finally been realized. The "vision thing" that George Bush Senior, a good and decent man who never seemed to emerge from Reagan's shadow, struggled to articulate. W has youth and two sterling examples to guide him. He has been baptized by fire. And perhaps most importantly, he has demonstrated the will to take that vision and act it out on the world stage. And he is changing history.

My second was, thank God he listened to Peggy Noonan. Back in March when I started blogging, Noonan gave some advice to the candidates. I thought her advice for Bush was dead-on:

Right now the key to Mr. Bush's success in defining both himself and Mr. Kerry is joy. The joy of the battle. And what joyous battlers bring to the proceedings: humor and wit and grace.
The one thing cable TV can't resist, and can't ignore even if it comes from a Republican, is wit. Wit brightens their copy. They love humor and joy. They will use a pithy putdown over and over. That's why Mr. Bush got so much mileage out of even a wan joke about Mr. Kerry having been in Washington long enough to take two sides on every issue.
Mr. President, keep it up but do it better.
Don't make the country mad at John Kerry, make them laugh at John Kerry. And use wit not only for wit's sake but to make political and philosophical points.
This year comedy's a cannon. It's the only thing right now that will break through the media wall.

I couldn't help noticing the incredible change in the toxic CNN coverage after Bush's speech. And I could attribute it to only one thing: they were charmed by him. Their words were almost laudatory - it was as though they were speaking about Bill Clinton. You could feel them struggling to get back on track by talking about Kerry's anticipated midnight rally, but their hearts weren't really in the battle. Will Shakespeare has a weary Henry V saying on the field of Agincourt, "I know not truly if the day be ours or no". The day was his.

The bulk of the speech was taken up with outlining the domestic agenda for the next 4 years. Both a review of the President's "ownership society" and compassionate conservatism philosophies, he unleashed a blitz of proposals on lowering trade barriers, tort reform, tax reform, job training and college funding, creation of opportunity zones and tax relief to attract business to blighted areas, health care, medical liability reform, family-friendly labor laws, increased home ownership, portable healthcare plans and health savings accounts, Social Security accounts, and No Child Left Behind. In what I saw as a subtle backhanded swipe at John Kerry's lack of specificity on the issues, he concluded this section of the speech with a wry invitation to visit his web site (www.GeorgeWBush.com) for further detailed information on his proposals.

Domestic business concluded, he went on to recap September 11th and the WOT. This is familiar territory and I will not rehash it here. Little new was said, but he did a thorough job covering it. The one thing he did say, which will undoubtedly be decried by the press, but which I found very compelling because it gave a glimpse into his reasons for pursuing the war on terror, was this:

Three days after September 11th, I stood where Americans died, in the ruins of the Twin Towers. Workers in hard hats were shouting to me, "Whatever it takes." A fellow grabbed me by the arm and he said, "Do not let me down." Since that day, I wake up every morning thinking about how to better protect our country. I will never relent in defending America — whatever it takes.

I often wonder if the President's critics ever stop to consider the awful burden of responsibility? How it must have felt to stand that day, on a heap of rubble, and know that it is your responsibility to ensure that this never, ever happens again? To send more men and women to die, if necessary, to achieve that end, not knowing what the end result will be? As a military wife and mother, I know that it would have been easier to shrug this burden off, to equivocate, to take political cover in that uncertainty and do as so many others had done before him when we were attacked: to do nothing? And even though I have read too many obituaries, and gone to too many funerals, and shed far too many tears in the years since September 11th for those in our military family who have given their lives, I thank God that he did not.

A few of my favorite quotes:

My opponent recently announced that he is the candidate of "conservative values," which must have come as a surprise to a lot of his supporters. Now, there are some problems with this claim. If you say the heart and soul of America is found in Hollywood, I'm afraid you are not the candidate of conservative values. If you voted against the bipartisan Defense of Marriage Act, which President Clinton signed, you are not the candidate of conservative values. If you gave a speech, as my opponent did, calling the Reagan presidency eight years of "moral darkness," then you may be a lot of things, but the candidate of conservative values is not one of them.

[Dubya does Jeff Foxworthy...who knew?]

In the last four years, you and I have come to know each other. Even when we don't agree, at least you know what I believe and where I stand. You may have noticed I have a few flaws, too. People sometimes have to correct my English — I knew I had a problem when Arnold Schwarzenegger started doing it. Some folks look at me and see a certain swagger, which in Texas is called "walking." Now and then I come across as a little too blunt — and for that we can all thank the white-haired lady sitting right up there.

[Media alert: Dubya does humility...happy yet? Came across well - he was relaxed and charming.]

I am running for President with a clear and positive plan to build a safer world, and a more hopeful America. I am running with a compassionate conservative philosophy: that government should help people improve their lives, not try to run their lives. I believe this Nation wants steady, consistent, principled leadership...

[Nothing revolutionary here, but a clear statement of what he's all about. Make fun of it all you like - that's his story and he's sticking to it.]

In this world of change, some things do not change: the values we try to live by, the institutions that give our lives meaning and purpose. Our society rests on a foundation of responsibility and character and family commitment.

[Apparently he doesn't read the NY Times. The man is clearly not acquainted with their flexible urban viewpoint...]

America has done this kind of work before — and there have always been doubters. In 1946, 18 months after the fall of Berlin to allied forces, a journalist wrote in the New York Times, "Germany is a land in an acute stage of economic, political and moral crisis. [European] capitals are frightened. In every [military] headquarters, one meets alarmed officials doing their utmost to deal with the consequences of the occupation policy that they admit has failed." End quote. Maybe that same person's still around, writing editorials. Fortunately, we had a resolute president named Truman, who with the American people persevered, knowing that a new democracy at the center of Europe would lead to stability and peace. And because that generation of Americans held firm in the cause of liberty, we live in a better and safer world today.

[Note to NY Times, USA Today: they're called cojones, mi hermanos.]

Bush slams Kerry's quote in a speech at Drake University Law School:

In the midst of war, he has called America's allies, quote, a "coalition of the coerced and the bribed." That would be nations like Great Britain, Poland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Denmark, El Salvador, Australia, and others — allies that deserve the respect of all Americans, not the scorn of a politician. I respect every soldier, from every country, who serves beside us in the hard work of history. America is grateful, and America will not forget.
...I have met with parents and wives and husbands who have received a folded flag, and said a final goodbye to a soldier they loved. I am awed that so many have used those meetings to say that I am in their prayers — to offer encouragement to me. Where does strength like that come from? How can people so burdened with sorrow also feel such pride? It is because they know their loved one was last seen doing good. Because they know that liberty was precious to the one they lost. And in those military families, I have seen the character of a great nation: decent, and idealistic, and strong.

[I loved him for this quote. I teared up again just typing it. This man "gets" what the military is all about. He truly does.]

And he should have closed with this:

This moment in the life of our country will be remembered. Generations will know if we kept our faith and kept our word. Generations will know if we seized this moment, and used it to build a future of safety and peace. The freedom of many, and the future security of our Nation, now depend on us. And tonight, my fellow Americans, I ask you to stand with me.

Outstanding speech, well-delivered. He let down his guard for a few moments and let us see the man. And I think many will like what they saw.

Ed Morrissey: "a bases-clearing double off the fence...Hell, he showed up without horns on his head, which makes liars out of half of his opposition these days.

Steven Taylor: all's well that ends well (what is it with Shakespeare this morning?)

Pejmanesque: "his best speech since September 20, 2001", not thrilled with FMA references.

Joe Gandelman: very detailed analysis with reaction from the other side of the house (which is always nice). "Democrats will hate his speech, Republican militants will talk about it for years..." What about Republican moderates? Suddenly I feel so marginalized... almost as though I didn't exist... :)

feste...well, I needed a good laugh.

Karol Sheinin at Dean's World predicts a bounce.

Vodkapundit: "For all its faults, for all its overtly- and overly-religious tones, this small-l libertarian prefers George Bush’s America to John Kerry’s."

And that struck me as about right too. In many ways I'm not a traditional conservative, but I suppose I'm more comfortable with what I saw last night than what I've heard from the other side of the aisle.

UPDATE: James Joyner missed the speech but has a roundup of opinions.

Dale Franks:thought the speech was "no better than a workmanlike effort...I would've preferred something a little more rhetorically powerful".

- Cassandra

September 3, 2004 at 07:41 AM | Permalink


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While I'm on an LSU high (Thunderstruck on the radio on the way into work today, gameday tomorrow!), let me pontificate...

Why is it that every side talks about creating jobs, when all a government can do is create *conditions* in which citizens create or destroy jobs? Do the out of work steel workers in Pennsylvania think that the toxic fairy godmother of government can create a single economically beneficial or sustainable job?

Posted by: jmarsh at Sep 3, 2004 8:45:07 AM

It annoys me too, but I think it's a combination of factors. (a)You're not dealing with an educated voter who sees that distinction frankly, and in the end, does it matter whether you create the job or the conditions that bring it about?

I agree it does in principle, but you see my point...

And (b) you have to get elected before you can get any of your other ideas accomplished.

Posted by: Cassandra at Sep 3, 2004 8:49:32 AM

The only kinds of jobs a government can create are those in the government. Grant money handed out to "biomedical research" and assorted causes comes from depriving others the chance to create their own jobs, which is a net zero gain. As the Soviets found out, government cannot possibly have all the knowledge necessary to make *efficient* economic decisions. Where should concrete plants be built, for instance?

This results in a government attempting to make economic decisions through information. Imagine DC trying to set prices on diesel in Lafayette, LA, versus gas station owners that have been in business there for 10 years. Distributed economic decisions work so well because decision making and the accompanying aggregation of information works best (like much else!) on the lowest level. DC has no way of knowing that cane trucks and swamp boats require more diesel during certain months in Morgan City, while also knowing the exact economic conditions for every product in Pasadena.

Sorry again, too much Thomas Sowell compounding my economic frustrations at whiny libs!

Posted by: jmarsh at Sep 3, 2004 9:06:10 AM

In my opinion this was a large speech. It started kinda slow but was optimistic and had big ideas worthy of an historic statesman. If todays liberals actually held liberal beleifs they would be ecstatic about Bush's vision.

It makes most of what passes for political speech seem small and petty. Speaking of which, I wonder how that midnight rally went.

Posted by: Pile On® at Sep 3, 2004 9:21:33 AM

I agree with you. However, there are some limited things that government does better, and some things that government provides, which the private sector would not if left to itself ("free riders, etc).

And those are still jobs. And I do believe that, to a limited extent, government can certainly help or hinder businesses and therefore help or hinder the creation of jobs. High taxes and burdensome regulation hinder job creation. Lifting same will tend to stimulate job creation.

In a very real sense, then, if you remove the obstacles that keep businesses from hiring, you are in effect "creating jobs".

I agree that this is a question of semantics since the govt. is not actually doing the hiring, but without govt. action, the hiring will not take place.

So it is important. And the average voter is NOT well-educated regarding economic issues and does not understand fine distinctions, so you have to talk in the language they understand. I think there is a limited degree to which a candidate is going to try to educate the public during a political campaign :)

Posted by: Cassandra at Sep 3, 2004 9:27:04 AM

Yes, semantics, but I've noticed something interesting in my short years... Semantics DO count in changing behaviors of people.

Let's say my sister fails one of those "Experimental Imaginary Calculus" classes she is fond of. She may describe the incident one way. If I talk to her, and get her to describe the incident to me in positive, motivated, actionable terms, the whole ballgame has changed. Hell, ask your husband about the difference between Marine "oorah!" and Army "hooah." They both mean the same thing (we don't want to, but we will, for instance) but the semantic force behind them means that the Marines mean "We don't want to, but we will...Kick their asses!" while the Army means "We don't want to, but we will, and we'll whine about it the whole way." (for most units anyway)

Semantics are empowering to individuals, and scary to those who are attempting to hold onto power. End all: libs with Master's degrees use it the same way perpetual welfare recipients do, and usually mean the same thing. Public edukashun is great, nashunal teechers unyun!

Nevermind that, let's get back to football! ;)

Posted by: jmarsh at Sep 3, 2004 9:41:04 AM

Government generally only creates conditions for jobs after it first placed a burden in the way. I prefer to think of the government's role in private market job creation as "getting out of the way."

That said, government is important and necessary and has roles that only it must fill. That requires some money and employees, and those people should be (though only sporadically are they) competent, which means paid well enough to attrack some quality candidates.

That last paragraph was a tangent of no relevance. Please move on. There is nothing more to see here.

My shots and drugs worked. I feel great, even though they kicked in around 10 last night and kept me up all night.

Posted by: KJ at Sep 3, 2004 9:54:32 AM

That's a good point (and one I almost brought up, then didn't for lack of time, then rather hoped you'd miss, you rat...) i.e., in failing to state the case plainly, one perpetuates the myth and therefore allows the shirking of responsibility (or perhaps more accurately, the misallocation of blame) when things don't go well.

Do do me a favor in future, and try to be just a bit more dense, will you? It makes the Blog Princess's life so much easier...

Posted by: Cassandra at Sep 3, 2004 9:54:43 AM

Sorry, I'll try not to stress you out this early in the morning!

Posted by: jmarsh at Sep 3, 2004 10:05:15 AM

Bush: Expanding Liberty.

If only he would couple that with the natural corrolary: limiting the size of government. Somewhere.

Posted by: KJ at Sep 3, 2004 11:45:28 AM

Off topic, but I just feel for the Russians dealing with the school hostage situation and its bloody end today. Although the news downplays it, those "rebels" and "seperatists" are Islamic jihadists. We aren't the only country fighting these barbarians. How brave to kill school children in the name of Allah.

Posted by: KJ at Sep 3, 2004 11:53:45 AM

Spot on, dude.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at Sep 3, 2004 12:29:59 PM

Not to sound trite, but has anyone ever heard of a terrorist hostage event in the USSR or Russian that has ended "well?" I'm frankly surprised that we haven't, uh, cross trained any of their folk. Although, looking at some of the soldiers (militia?), their dress, tactics and mannerisms don't lead one to believe they're squared away at all.

Still the terrorists' fault.

Posted by: jmarsh at Sep 3, 2004 12:42:23 PM

No doubt I would rather be a hostage in the US than in Russia. They tend to kill everyone in Russia. Or, as Howard Dean would say, the USSR.

Posted by: KJ at Sep 3, 2004 12:55:56 PM