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Beyond the State of the Union ’06 

The ’s speech has already been published online, at Think Progress. As expected, President Bush cements his decision to not opt for an early withdrawal of from Iraq, and hits back at suggestions to the contrary:

Yet there is a difference between responsible criticism that aims for success, and that refuses to acknowledge anything but failure. Hindsight alone is not wisdom. And second-guessing is not a strategy.
   With so much in the balance, those of us in public office have a duty to speak with candour. A sudden withdrawal of our forces from would abandon our Iraqi allies to death and prison, put men like and Zarqawi in charge of a strategic country, and show that a pledge from America means little. Members of Congress: however we feel about the decisions and debates of the past, our nation has only one option. We must keep our word, defeat our enemies, and stand behind the American military in its vital mission.

   This remains a touchy subject in a nation as politicized as the . The gave an excellent interview to David Frost not long ago, essentially stating something that if you want peace, sometimes you must wage war. She stressed that her husband was opposed to war—but that it can be a necessity for the greater good.
   I took quite a strict interpretation of resolution 1441 at the at the time the US was debating to go to war—but whatever one’s political bent, America is involved. So what should America do?
   A pledge needs to be carried out. History is littered with broken promises from the , and I would like to see it not break this one—for the of the country. The United States has won friends in the past not because it has pursued policies: anti-American sentiment was high during President Carter’s administration down here; pro-American sentiment was high during World War II and in the years after it. President made friends internationally while defying the UN Security Council in 1995 (Bosnia), 1998 (Iraq) and 1999 (Kosovo), with much of the public here remembering him as a leader.
   Why? Was it because the was in its nature, wanting to help the world—even if it encountered hiccups along the way? Businesses came on board with a wish to work with other cultures, not really seeing the borders. I remember being sensitive, even caring, in their quest to form alliances. They had learned the lesson of falling behind Japan in productivity and —the late 1980s and early 1990s were a period of growth in the US’s business maturity: many business books written during that time has a conciliatory, international outlook. And they were years I was introduced to dealing with the United States.
   The did not start out with this aim, but circumstances have compelled it to and to have a more robust than the President might have indicated during his 2000 campaign. But it has found itself at this point in 2006, having to repeat the events of as its justification, and is in desperate need to the war as one of freedom and liberty.
   It might be, and it might not be. I am interested in , but probably not enough to manage a debate on this blog this week. But from where I sit, the only course open to President Bush—or if I were in his shoes, with the same pressures—is to keep pledges made publicly to the United States’ Iraqi allies. In my book, that means staying the course.
   There are good reasons not to do this. A trillion-dollar is no cause for celebration. It offends my —I suppose libertarian (not ) by western standards—nature. Americans may feel domestic problems are more pressing, and George W. Bush is the president of the United States, not of other territories. There is no immediately foreseeable harm to having a date for withdrawal, even as a target. And it is extremely hard to see why security in a foreign land can mean economic and societal prosperity in the US. Or so the arguments go: for each one there is an equally impassioned argument to the contrary.
   Others will argue that the deficit is a necessary evil for the time being while the country is waging . That if the United States sorts out a foreign problem, it will lead to greater security at home. That a simply gives a target date to regroup and to take over territories from which the US is departing. That the United States had no choice but to be involved in war after being attacked on September 11, 2001: foreigners made the US a global policeman, not the United States and not the President.
   So in the midst of these conflicting arguments, I believe the job of a leader is to . If the President says that to an outsider is the order of the day—for the sake of this argument I conveniently ignore areas where things are less clear—I can see American companies wanting to build bridges with others in foreign countries.
   This happened 10 to 15 years ago, and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the and the new models I cooked up with American partners in business, where we had equal input. I enjoyed the presumption that we were equals in a deal. This happened when the President’s father and President Clinton were in office: a Republican and a Democrat.
   But of late, dealing with American businesses has been difficult. People talking big and not following through. Others adopting positions. being eroded.
   Many Americans I speak to regret how business has taken a tumble. They, too, notice it in dealings with their own compatriots.
   Haven’t I just shot my own argument in the foot? If the President is so high and mighty, surely I wouldn’t have these troubles working with his nationals?
   Here is where I see the example being set and the message being communicated as being two different things, and this is where the problem actually lies.
   A few years ago, I submitted some research to the on branding. I offered the viewpoint that the US needed to have a unified , and that the work of Ms Charlotte Beers at the time was insufficient (or, at best, it needed more resources). This was a bit before became as active as he is today in , but it was at a time when I felt sure that Dr would be asked to be Secretary of State in President Bush’s second term (yes, I predicted he would win).
   I do not recall in depth the actual brand that I proposed to Dr Rice, but I touched on the disunity between the White House and the messages actually getting out of the country. Most relied on the US’s outlets, which have been shown to be biased, most recently at a university in a liberal state.
   The have created disunity, and that in turn affects the public. The fuelling of one has meant that the public perceives a tyrant for a president, if they rely on the programmes. Surprisingly, ’s show on , blasted by some as being right-wing, has been found to be one of the most balanced; as has Gannett’s USA Today newspaper. However, not every American turns to these news sources. And not every American can believe the President when he says the is strong, or that he is keeping in check.
   So what can one do? Side with the and spread the cheer in the hope that that will balance the ? Or simply be more selective about what we read, watch and listen to?
   Or do we, too, stand out here with our own example and hope we can lead?
   Maybe this is why the bloggers are rising and the need a rethink.
   And, I would even venture, actually supporting the President on some of his more ideas, especially ones we can agree on. If we can start with where we agree, we can create dialogue in areas where we disagree.
   Taking Iraq aside, there are positions which I believe even President Clinton would be happy to endorse:

We must also change how we power our . We will increase our research in better batteries for and electric cars, and in -free cars that run on . We will also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn but from wood chips, stalks, or switch grass. Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years. Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal: to replace more than 75 per cent of our imports from the by 2025. By applying the talent and technology of America, this country can dramatically improve our environment, move beyond a petroleum-based economy, and make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past. …
   Yet the destination of is determined by human action, and every great movement of history comes to a point of choosing. could have accepted peace at the cost of disunity and continued slavery. could have stopped at Birmingham or at Selma, and achieved only half a victory over segregation. The United States could have accepted the permanent division of Europe, and been complicit in the oppression of others. Today, having come far in our own historical journey, we must decide: will we turn back, or finish well?

   I say, as , let’s work with the United States on the areas that better all our lives. And even get the nation thinking of becoming not just less oil-dependent, but moving away from fossil fuels altogether.

Del.icio.us tags: George W. Bush | State of the Union | war on terror | Osama bin Laden | USA | politics | nation branding | media bias | liberal media | mainstream media | alternative fuels | fossil fuels
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Randy Thomas identifies one aspect of American society in the President’s address at his blog: ‘To nutshell it, the two biggest themes for this non political analyst was “A Hopeful Society …” and “a life of personal responsibility is a life of fulfillment.” It boils down to the individual taking personal responsibility and a nation of people who have this ethic can lead to a hopeful society.’ He states it far more eloquently than I did.  
Update: alternative fuels must be in the consciousness Down Under. It was the only part of the State of the Union address that was highlighted in the six o’clock and late bulletins on 3 News in New Zealand.  
Thank you for your post and your kind words.  
I'd be a bit wary of that survey that claims to prove the US media is biassed to the left. Its methodology is based on some questionable assumptions and measures. And its author appears to have very strong rightwing credentials, according to this:
Thanks, Johnnie! I dislike biases either to the right or to the left and the researcher’s affiliations now seem somewhat suspect. However, I still feel there is a strong degree of bias.  
Update on political power v. will power: all it takes is an energy secretary to say that the President was just kidding when he talked about alternative fuels, according to Knight–Ridder newspapers. ‘[Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman] said the broad goal was to displace foreign oil imports, from anywhere, with domestic alternatives. He acknowledged that oil is a freely traded commodity bought and sold globally by private firms. Consequently, it would be very difficult to reduce imports from any single region, especially the most oil-rich region on Earth. …
   ‘“In 2025, net petroleum imports, including both crude oil and refined products, are expected to account for 60 percent of demand … up from 58 percent in 2004,” according to the Energy Information Administration's 2006 Annual Energy Outlook.’
   A heck of a lot more needs to be done to change the Cabinet’s thinking: America has the brains and the technology, but does it have the will to move away from fossil fuels?  
Spotted in The Guardian, a commentary on the energy aspect of the State of the Union address.  
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