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State of the State of the Union

Slate.com's early review calls it Bush's anti-over-reach speech:

"Not exciting, but highly effective. Or, rather, highly effective because it wasn't exciting. Bush saved the apprehension-inducing vision of global freedom until the very end, where it was condensed intotwo easily-tolerated paragraphs. Did somebody in the White House take Peggy Noonan's criticisms seriously?"

As often he does, I'm impressed with Josh's reading of Bush's speech tonight especially as it ties into the privatization of social security.

Here are excerpts from Josh's early thoughts:

"...And I found the choices imbedded in the speech quite surprising.

First, As someone who is not at all neutral on whether Social Security should be preserved or dismantled, that struck me as a missed opportunity. It's not every day that even the president gets an hour with the American people, with all the pomp and ceremony reared up in his favor. Even the privatizers have a story to tell. And the State of the Union gives the president a moment of conversational intimacy with the American people. On Social Security, I don't think he made much good use of it. And there was little on Social Security at least that was memorable.

The whole second half of the speech (I wasn't watching a clock; but that was my sense) was about foreign policy issues that are distant from what the country will be debating in the coming months. They remain issues of deadly importance and high ideals; everyone can agree to that. But nothing was connected together -- no bridge from the issues and touchstones which won him reelection to the policies he now wants to enact.

A few other observations.

First, now we know how much phase-out the president wants: 1/3 of Social Security. He said so tonight. So at least that nugget of his plan is clear.

Second, there were a slew of bones tossed to the cultural right pretty clearly aimed at bringing them back on board the phase-out bandwagon. Again, it didn't seem woven together, all disconnected.

Third, the president is now saying -- and saying emphatically and militantly, with an eye on his critics -- that if you're 55 you're home free, nothing to worry about when it comes to phasing out Social Security.

One might observe that this is a rather unfortunate dividing in half of the country. If you're 50 today, you spent most of your highest earning years not only paying into Social Security, but advance-paying even more, under the 1983 Social Security Commission which put in the extra level of tax to build up the Trust Fund. Now you're hosed. Too bad."
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