EDITORIAL Same old politics as usual

As George W. Bush strutted into the chamber of the House of Representatives in his navy suit and cornflower blue tie, he wasn’t surprising anyone.
His State of the Union speech was everything that the analysts had predicted it to be: an emphatic domestic reassurance that America isn’t going down the drain, and a vigorous appeal to the American people to support his administration’s policy toward Iraq and terrorism.
He appealed for bipartisan cooperation on foreign and domestic issues to two crowds in the same room: the enthusiastic and power-comfy Republicans on the right side of the chamber who nodded along to every bit of Bush’s predetermined platform, and the demoralized and disintegrating Democrats on the left, who often refused to applaud the president’s main points.
He repeated promises about the economy. He repeated promises about healthcare, homeland security, and his self-sponsored war on terrorism. He had to put on his routine and make Saddam seem like the bad cop. Tonight was his opportunity to start the year off differently.
But we get more of the same, and worse. Firstly, Bush is granting tax relief that we, as a union, do not need. He ranted about tax cuts, about reducing the marriage penalty, about the ending of the double taxation of dividends, and about “giving back to American families.” All this with budget deficits predicted in the billions of dollars.
We face rising unemployment in this Union (2.7 million Americans lost their jobs this past year ), and more vocal concern about the economy. Bush suggested that granting corporate tax breaks and spending more than we earn is the solution to escalating economic instability.
Bush romanced the common American citizen with pledges of money in every pocket, and widespread economic security, yet he has to date delivered very little.
The president refuses to believe that a national healthcare system will help everyone get adequate medical coverage. But he also calls for the power of healthcare to go back to the doctors and the patients. It seems like he’s temporarily appeasing the distressed medical professionals in this country, who face rising malpractice insurance rates and lawsuits, but he doesn’t really care for the individual doctor or patient, or for complete national medical coverage at all.
His agenda all along has been to attack Iraq. He can’t hide that anymore. In his address Bush neither overtly called for war nor extensively urged military action. But he did reassure us, just in case we forgot, that his administration lost patience with Saddam Hussein right after Papa Bush couldn’t topple his regime.
Bush is no longer riding the popularity wave of post-9/11 American public opinion. His union is far more cynical and hard to convince than it was just a year ago. His approval rating has dropped from a staggeringly high 80 percent down to 55 to 60 percent. Most of what he’s given America is more reasons to be concerned: a worrisome economy, a troublesome environment, and a bothersome healthcare system.
A year ago Americans gave the president the benefit of the doubt when it came to running this country; they were too confused and frightened after the year that 2001 was. But as of today, Americans have seen very few benefits, and have many more doubts.
How Bush and his fellow politicos have succeeded, in just one year, in diverting America’s attention, anger, and anxiety from Afghanistan to Iraq, from bin Laden to Hussein, is one of the smoothest political magic tricks in history.
The state of the nation is tense. The trifecta threats of war, terrorism and recession blind and bewilder the American citizen from three sides.
“Our union is strong,” George W. Bush said, and no one really believed him.