President Bush’s budget for fiscal year 2009, which goes to Congress, carries an alarming distinction: For the first time in the history of the republic, annual federal spending will cross the $3 trillion mark.
And federal spending got there early. That figure had been anticipated but not until next year when the new president would have been saddled with that honor.
Bush was also in office when the government crossed the $2 trillion mark in 2002 and the budget, thanks to the president’s free spending Republican allies in Congress, sank into deficit after four years of surpluses.
President Bush is a forgotten man. Giving his last State of the Union speech, he was overshadowed by a tempest in a teapot. (Did Barack Obama snub Hillary Clinton or merely turn to talk with another senator?)
We need a breather from the campaign, so we will focus on why history is likely to record George W. Bush’s eight years in office as a failed presidency.
At the end of his CNN interview before the State of the Union address, Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee was asked a no-trick question: “What is the state of the union?” And he gave a no-duck answer: “I think it’s troubled — to say anything else would be dishonest.”
At the end of his State of the Union speech, which could have been titled “No President Left Behind,” President Bush declared that “…so long as we continue to trust the people, our nation will prosper, our liberty will be secure and the state of our Union will remain strong.”
The president’s State of the Union address is the ceremonial start of the year in the national capital, and this time it marked the symbolic start of President Bush’s final year in office.
In terms of accomplishment, it is also likely to be a very short year for the president. His address from the House chamber came in the midst of a contentious campaign to succeed him and the extent of the lawmakers’ distraction now and for the rest of the year was evident in the attention paid on the floor to Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and Edward Kennedy.
The snake-oil salesman tried once again Monday night to sell his illusions to a skeptical audience that stopped listening to him years ago.
George W. Bush’s final State of the Union speech marked a sad, pathetic footnote to a failed Presidency: a dismal, clueless exercise in fear-mongering and falsehood; a monument to arrogance and bluster; and a testament to the depths to which this nation’s government has sunk.
For the most part, this seventh and last SOTU was pure Bush: a mixture of unreality and unrelenting hyperbole, delivered in the stilted, halting style of a failed orator.
He tried to convince an skeptical Congress to become more of a co-conspirator to his failed polices, urging the House and Senate to make his failed programs permanent as a lasting monument to his corrupt legacy.
It’s about the economy, and the war in Iraq, and other unresolved matters that have kept the nation on edge. But President Bush’s State of the Union address on Monday is something else, too: probably his last chance to seize the public’s attention and put it to use.
Bush will pressure Congress — particularly the Senate, where he senses trouble — to finish up an economic stimulus package fast. He will talk of improved security in Iraq and reassert that he decides when U.S. troops will come. He will offer some modest new ideas and recycle others as unfinished business.
The final State of the Union of the Bush presidency will be roughly split between domestic and foreign matters. Expect few surprises and no big initiatives.
To the degree the speech favors the pragmatic over the bold, the White House offers a two-word explanation: Blame Congress.