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 

     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 

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 

     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. 


     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, ( 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 
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