State of Bush’s America continues to be strong

A. J. Atchue

Five years into his tenure as president, it’s hard to argue that President Bush has ever faced a rougher period of news and criticism than the past year. Progress in stabilizing Iraq has certainly moved slower than expected, Bush failed to win support in Congress for his proposed overhaul of Social Security, and he was roundly blasted for his response to victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

With his poll numbers hovering in the 40s, the lowest levels of his presidency, Bush gave a State of the Union address on Jan. 31 that was largely muted and aimed at middle of the road Americans. Far from his bold “axis of evil” speech in 2002, or laying out the case for war against Iraq in 2003, or even his passionate call for privatizing Social Security last year, this speech was uncharacteristically modest.

Last year, Bush faced the facts when calling for private retirement accounts to be set up. The current Social Security system will face a deficit in the coming years, especially as baby boomers retire, and that’s not just going to change on its own. Unfortunately, Democrats and much of America decided to bury their heads in the sand and ignore the issue. After all, we can’t offend the powerful elderly constituency by daring to touch Social Security.

As a result, this year Bush only proposed the creation of a commission to examine the full impact of baby boom retirements on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. As he said, by 2030, paying for those three entitlement programs will consume 60% of the entire federal budget by themselves. Something needs to change before then, but I won’t be holding my breath.

Noticeably absent from the speech was any mention of Katrina and the devastation that it left. One might point out that Bush wouldn’t want to revisit what turned out to be a political sore spot for him. However, that was also largely invented by his critics. The federal response could have been faster, but it certainly wasn’t Bush’s fault that Louisiana officials were as slow as they were in dealing with a crisis in their own state.

Let’s get real here. New Orleans is governed by a man, Mayor Ray Nagin, who recently said that the rebuilding of his city needs to result in a “chocolate New Orleans.” The man is a complete and utter embarrassment and a disgrace to politics. The fact that the people of New Orleans elected this moron to be their mayor is truly remarkable.

Imagine if, after 9/11, Rudy Giuliani had proposed rebuilding a “vanilla New York.” Jesse Jackson and his posse of civil rights “leaders” would have been screaming bloody murder. But was there any negative response to Nagin’s ridiculous “chocolate New Orleans” line? Of course not. But I digress.

Foreign policy is where Bush is criticized most often, but I think it’s where he’s been at his best. People who cringe every time he mentions 9/11, or say we should have moved on from it by now, are misguided and simply do not understand the larger point.

As Bush said last week, “On September the 11th, 2001, we found that problems originating in a failed and oppressive state 7,000 miles away could bring murder and destruction to our country.”

He continued, “Dictatorships shelter terrorists, and feed resentment and radicalism, and seek weapons of mass destruction. Democracies replace resentment with hope, respect the rights of their citizens and their neighbors, and join the fight against terror. Every step toward freedom in the world makes our country safer, and so we will act boldly in freedom’s cause.”

Indeed, that is the lesson to continually take out of 9/11. It’s not something we just move on from. Ending totalitarianism and tyranny is the best way to root out terrorists at the source, and thereby make our country more secure. There is nothing more important in achieving security than promoting freedom around the world. I applaud Bush for recognizing this important principle and continuing to emphasize it, even in the face of immense skepticism.

Bush may have had a rough period, but he still remains true to his convictions. He has three more years in office. Granted, it will be increasingly difficult to accomplish anything substantial, especially with this being an election year for Congress. He may have to compromise, but he won’t sacrifice his highest ideals just to get something done. That is what I like to see in a president.