THE WANDERER, FEBRUARY 1, 2007 JOSEPH SOBRAN'S WASHINGTON WATCH Bush at the Stake President Bush's State of the Union address took advantage of the ceremony of the occasion. It struck me as more upbeat than I would have expected, given the new Democratic majorities in Congress, the failure of his recent "surge" speech, and his abysmal poll ratings. His speechwriters had evidently been directed to supply the usual grab-bag of applause lines -- surefire stuff about "Madam Speaker," the threat of terrorism, our heroic troops, fighting AIDS in Africa, the need for new energy sources, education, and various other sacred cattle. Thanks to the November elections, things are different this year, so there was no "axis of evil" talk or daydreaming of putting a man on Mars; for the first time Bush was addressing an enemy-occupied Congress. Bush seemed to welcome the challenge of working with the Democrats. Unfortunately, the common ground he found with them was on such things as the federal government's "obligation" to see to it that every man, woman, child, and armadillo in the United States has guaranteed, "affordable" health insurance. The "compassionate conservative" really poured on the compassion -- the politician's code-word for socialism. It wasn't enough to satisfy Hillary Clinton, naturally, but they agree in principle. At the same time, Bush reaffirmed his commitment to the Iraq war even the Republicans are fleeing from. War, no matter how futile and costly, doesn't seem to count as big government. And the war will go on as long as he remains in office. Hardly anyone thinks 21,000 more troops are going to produce the victory he still pines for. Even the military has little faith in his plan. Still, Bush managed to buck up his side's morale somewhat, if only for an evening. At least he wasn't pelted with rotten eggs and apples. So what if he boosted the Democrats' morale even more? The important thing was to create the feeling that he isn't the feckless loser he has been taken for lately, even if he has lost the allegiance of much of his own party. His chief strength is his dogged refusal to admit defeat, like a bloodied boxer who raises his arms in victory after being pounded for ten rounds. But with two years left in his administration, Bush is now hanging on for dear life, trying to prove he is something more than a lame duck. The big question now is who will succeed him. Anyone who hoped that Bush would pursue a conservative agenda has long since given up. His agenda now is survival, even if it means cutting deals with the Democrats. It is quite possible that the next Republican presidential nominee won't be recognizably conservative; the pro-abortion, pro-homosexual Rudy Giuliani is currently leading in polls of GOP voters, and John McCain is leading the pack in fundraising. (Both Giuliani and McCain support Bush's escalation of the war.) Bush's legacy will be a much-expanded federal government and maybe the end of conservative dominance of the Republican Party. Here He Comes! Shortly after Barack Obama, darling of the liberal media, announced he was forming an "exploratory committee," INSIGHT magazine, an offshoot of the Republican, Moonie, neocon WASHINGTON TIMES, ran a story that he had once attended a radical Islamic school, or madrassa, in Indonesia. But it claimed that the story had been put out by the Clinton camp. The idea was that the Clintons were up to old tricks, trying to make Obama sound like an Osama. The story was quickly repeated by Fox News. But someone tried to track it down, and it seems that the story was false. Obama, as a small boy in Indonesia, had briefly gone to a public school, predominantly Muslim but not religious or radical (whatever he was then, he is a Christian now). Nor had the fabrication originated with the Clintons. Apparently it was an attempt, by the magazine itself, to embarrass both Obama and Hillary. (Once this yarn was exploded, CNN gleefully used it to embarrass Fox for running a phony scoop.) Obama came through this episode unscathed, as usual. He still trails Hillary, but his lucky streak hasn't ended yet. Here She Comes! At the end of the week, Hillary made it official: She's in the race too. She's still the frontrunner and leading fundraiser, but she wasn't about to let Obama gain on her if she could help it. She's not getting any younger, the media adore him, he doesn't have her negatives, a lot of her base is still sore at her for supporting the Iraq war (which he opposed from the start), and they're afraid she can't win in 2008. So she has to be aggressive. She is now at her peak, and her edge, though substantial, could collapse in a flash. By now even her friends are a little tired of her. It seems like only yesterday that she was rocking to "Don't Stop Thinkin' About Tomorrow," but the words now sound a little ominous for her with the Boy Wonder at her heels. She may need all her poise; remember how suddenly Big Ed Muskie's campaign went pffft in a moment of weakness? Politics is a fickle business. I can't say I'm rooting for her myself, but given the alternatives in both parties, I find myself looking for a silver lining in the event that she becomes our second President Clinton. First, of course, she could return the White House furniture she and Bill made off with six years ago. And she's a known quantity; it's hard to imagine her exciting much enthusiasm for new federal programs, and the Republicans would put up more opposition to her than they have to Bush. Oops! After I recently wrote that Sam Francis had passed away last year, I was reminded that it was actually two years ago. Mea culpa. Even now I can hardly believe it has been that long. At any rate, I'm still glad to commend SHOTS FIRED, (www.shotsfired.us) the newly published posthumous collection of his writings. + + + "A 'normal' person is usually someone you don't know very well yet" -- REGIME CHANGE BEGINS AT HOME, a new selection of my Confessions of a Reactionary Utopian. If you have not seen my monthly newsletter SOBRAN'S yet, give my office a call at 800-513-5053 and request a free sample, or better yet, subscribe for two years for just $85. New subscribers get two gifts with their subscription. More details can be found at the Subscription page of my website, www.sobran.com. Already a subscriber? Consider a gift subscription for a priest, friend, or relative. --- Joseph Sobran ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Read this column on-line at "http://www.sobran.com/wanderer/w2007/w070201.shtml". This column copyright (c) 2007 by THE WANDERER, the National Catholic Weekly founded in 1867, www.thewandererpress.com. 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