Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Exercise in make-believe

When I started to read some of the initial summaries of the themes President Bush planned to incorporate into the State of the Onion I though he might have scanned the political horizon, seen what was likely from a newly feisty Democratic Congress, and decided to go for his legacy. Make some bold proposals, perhaps on the order of private Social Security accounts (he did make an effort and I respect him for it), that he knew would never be passed by this Congress but could help to change the terms of debate and might have a chance of being enacted by one of his successors.

Alas, when you got to the details, the proposals were fairly underwhelming. The idea of changing the tax treatment of health insurance is intriguing, but it's a modest change, not a sea-change. It seems crafted with the idea of actually getting it passed this year by this Congress, which is fantasyland thinking.

Indeed, much of the speech was an exercise in make-believe. I'll pretend I'm not sinking in public approval polls and haven't been rejected by the voters on my administration's signature effort (Iraq), that this is an ordinary year with ordinary issues. The Democrats were civil enough, at least this night, to preserve the illusion. And so the bubble around the president remains intact. And the White House still doesn't acknowledge that the republicans lost the election in November mainly because of Iraq.


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