I’m with Jessica: Bush looked worn out, but in a good way, one that I think worked to his advantage. He looked like the man described in Peggy Noonan’s column the other day — the president who has trouble sleeping at night, worrying about protecting the nation. He looked sober and serious. I kept thinking: Those weary eyes see things more clearly than the Europeans do; I’m looking at Gary Cooper in High Noon.
I don’t like SOTU speeches, because they’re usually laundry-lists, and it’s hard for any president to work up a head of steam. Bush really got going talking about AIDS in Africa, and I think a lot of people will be surprised by how passionate and sincere he was. I wish he had said something about how his administration is starting to question the AIDS establishment’s strategies on fighting AIDS in Africa, which have failed, and had praised Uganda’s strategy — but it’s more important that the administration does something about it, and USAID is. I think it’s tremendously exciting that Bush is doing this for Africa, and he certainly came across as humane.
Bush made an important point when he said that some days go by without the American people hearing anything about the War on Terror, but not a day goes by that he doesn’t. Bush’s great lines have been amply ballyhooed by y’all below, but I was especially struck by: “The threat is new; America’s duty is familiar. … We accept this responsibility.” Translation: Once again, the United States has to save the world’s ass, because that’s what America does. Along those lines, I appreciated the big kiss-off to France and Germany when Bush said, with fire in his eyes, “The course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others. … I will defend the freedom and security of the American people.”
The details Bush gave about the evil nature of Iraq’s regime were galvanizing. First he laid out the bioweapons Saddam has, and hasn’t accounted for. Then he used the image of Saddam’s secret police torturing children in front of their parents. Message: this is the kind of man who has these weapons. Then: “Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option.” Slam dunk.
Finally, Bush is just about the only politician I can think of who can talk about God and come across as totally sincere.