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.
President George W. Bush has ordered stepped-up monitoring of federal computer networks, including government Internet sites, because of stepped up attacks by hackers.
But Bush's secret directive also allows the government to snoop more into private Internet sites as well as data networks that contain information on millions of American citizens.
There were some Navy corpsmen who had canes that they would whittle down each day. Near the end of their tours in Vietnam, they would carry maybe foot-long sticks in their hands. They would carry them with some swagger.
They were "short."
Most of the people I remember just tacked their short-timer calendar to the wall of a hooch and filled in the days. Some of the calendars were in the shape of a woman. Some were just a grid of numbers -- 365 days or 395 days and counting until that flight back to the world.
A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The study concluded that the statements "were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses."
The study was posted Tuesday on the Web site of the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism.
When the Bush administration took office, it was promised that the White House would operate like a lean, efficient corporation, unlike the messy ways of the Clintons. After all, the president was a Harvard MBA and the vice president the former CEO of a huge multinational corporation.
It didn't work out that way. At times, like with Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, White House officials seemed to be clomping around in clown shoes. Now comes the curious case of the missing e-mails.
President Bush, acknowledging the risk of recession, embraced about $145 billion worth of tax relief and other incentives Friday to give the economy a "shot in the arm. "
Bush said such a growth package must also include tax incentives for business investment and quick tax relief for individuals. And he said that to be effective, an economic stimulus package would need to roughly represent 1 percent of the gross domestic product — the value of all U.S. goods and services and the best measure of the country's economic standing.
President Bush urged OPEC nations on Tuesday to put more oil on the world market and warned that soaring prices could cause an economic slowdown in the United States.
"High energy prices can damage consuming economies," the president told a small group of reporters traveling with him in the Mideast.