Where do you begin to take apart the evasions, half-truths and outright lies that merrily danced from the lips of the President of the United States in his State of the Union address this week?
One place to begin is to listen to the inanities uttered by his Democratic rivals in response.
Interviewed by NBC News just after Mr. Bush’s speech, Sen. John Kerry started off his critique with the insight that there just aren’t enough firefighters in the country.
With high statecraft like that from the president’s opponents, you’d be wise to put your money on the Republican ticket this fall.
There were many things wrong with what Mr. Bush had to say, but as of now he seems certain to win re-election by a large margin, and not just because of the money he’s raised. If Mr. Bush proved nothing else this week, he showed that he has managed to capture the rhetoric of patriotism and the posture of Champion of Good against Evil.
That means anyone who challenges him will have to prove he is not against patriotism and not in favor of evil, and for the Democratic Party today, that’s a very tall order—even tougher than taking on the national firefighter crisis.
But it doesn’t mean Mr. Bush was telling the truth. Among other whoppers, he claimed yet again that “I oppose amnesty, because it would encourage further illegal immigration, and unfairly reward those who break our laws,” even though virtually everyone,supporter and critic alike, who has discussed his recent immigration proposal has acknowledged that it is in fact amnesty and does reward lawbreakers.
Today, after two weeks of intense public discussion, he has no excuse. He lied.
He also told less than the truth about the vaunted “weapons of mass destruction.” Mr. Bush insisted that “the Kay Report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations.” That’s a bit different from his unqualified assertions last year that Iraq possessed the weapons themselves and was getting ready—any minute—to use them against us. Now it turns out Iraq had only WMD-“related program activities,” and there was no imminent threat.
Last year maybe the president was misled by advisers who lied. This year the president lied.
Then there is the high and noble mission of spreading democracy everywhere. “I believe,” he piously intoned, “that God has planted in every human heart the desire to live in freedom,” that “we also hear doubts that democracy is a realistic goal in the Middle East, where freedom is rare,” but “it is mistaken, and condescending, to assume that whole cultures and great religions are incompatible with liberty and self-government.”
While not exactly lies (Mr. Bush probably really believes it all), none of the above is true.
There is no reason to think God has planted the desire for freedom in human beings, since there is virtually no movement toward what we regard as freedom throughout most of human history, and especially in history outside Europe and America. Nor is it true that it is “condescending” to think some systems of government, unique to the West, cannot be stuck on to the cultures and societies of non-Western regions.
Is it “condescending” to the West to think that implanting Islamic law and institutions in Europe and America is “incompatible” with Western culture and religion? Today, they are being exported to the West because the West is too decadent to resist the mass immigration that brings them.
What is “condescending” is Mr. Bush’s conceit that the American “democracy” his administration wants to impose on Iraq and elsewhere is the only institutional means of establishing liberty and self-government, that our form of government represents what God wants, and that we should bluster all over the world imposing it by force of arms, which is exactly what Mr. Bush acknowledges we are doing in Iraq and will do in other countries.
“Condescending” is not quite the word for this arrogance. The history of Europe and America is awash in the blood of men and women who have died fighting to destroy the kind of aggression and conquest Mr. Bush now proposes for this country.
Mr. Bush’s policies are failures and disasters, and he ought not to be running for office at all, much less actually occupying the highest one in the country and the most powerful in the world.
But, since the only practical alternative is incapable of offering any improvement or even uttering any meaningful challenge, don’t expect the office to change hands soon.