The SOTU speech: tweaking, omissions and Orwellianisms

Since I’m going to be on Meria Heller’s radio program today, I wanted to clarify my thinking about last night’s State of the Union address beforehand. Two major points, re the speech: (1) few surprises; and (2) heartbreak.


The heartbreak must be fought. So – let’s start with those items in the SOTU that offer a little humor, namely the presidential tweaking. Clearly, with the White House slaughtering innocent people in Fallujah, sending US troops into a combat zone from which they cannot escape without mental harm, and trying to bulldoze domestic opposition and genuine news reporting, this was a time for some . . . First Softening.


Not all the language adjustments are new, but the White House Tweaking Team is obviously on the job:

·        The word “oil” is not used – and I mean, not ever – it’s been replaced entirely with the word “energy.”

·        In a couple of clear references to the Baby Boomer generation, the term “Baby Boomers” was not used – replaced with “our generation.”

·        The word “Christian” was not heard – replaced with “faith.”

·        As predicted, “privatize” or “privatizing,” “privatized” etc were not mentioned in re Social Security; the word of choice was “personal.” (just once)

·        And in some references to health care and lower-income workers among others, the word “insurance” was used only once – replaced with “coverage.”


No mysteries here; you can see why they don’t emphasize the word “insurance,” for example. Mentioning “insurance” might remind people of “insurance companies.” And if the public starts thinking about insurance companies — Someone might ask how much money insurance companies are raking in from their investments, why they’re being allowed to hike up their rates on doctors, and why they’re not being forced to provide genuine coverage.


Can anyone compute the actual wealth of the US insurance industry, give or take a trillion?


Substitutions aside, on to some key omissions: No reference by name to Osama bin Laden, for obvious reasons. Weirdly, only a couple of refs to “the European Union” (as standing with us) – and NO reference by name to Europe, China, Japan, Africa, Latin America (including Mexico), Canada, or Australia (or Antarctica, or the poles, of course). Thus when Bush mentioned other countries that have elections, whom did he name? – Great Britain (also not named in the speech), the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Canada? Not on your bippy. He linked us with Afghanistan, the Ukraine (though the words “exit polls” did not come up), and Iraq.


I checked my observations in the transcript this morning. Sure enough: it’s analogous to the old David Levine cartoon of a New Yorker’s view of America, with Manhattan extending out to about Kansas etc. – This is indeed GWBush’s view of the world, owing to his obsession with oil: a polar conflict between us (with US oil companies breaking their previous records for profits, in 2004) on one side, and barriers to our FREE access to global oil reserves on the other, for the next forty years.


In 2003, the Wall Street Journal ran an article estimating that the world’s oil reserves will run out in 40 years. On second thought, I’m not going to deal with the Orwellian references to “freedom.” As I have written before: one nation has no right to invade and remake another nation, because there is no such right.


One heartbreaking note, and I’ll try to keep this brief, regarding Bush’s statement about no “timetable” for withdrawing from Iraq. (Stop reading here, if you have a weak stomach, or a conscience.) I once read a novel in which the (woman) author narrated a child-abuse tactic: the abusive mother/parent spanked/whipped the child, while telling the child to stop crying. – “Stop that, or I’ll give you something to cry about!” – So the child, by a massive effort of will and hope, forced itself to stop crying. – And the mother kept whipping/spanking the child.


Sad to say, I believe I have also observed some of this in real life. It is such a violation, a self-evident violation of trust and personal faith and decency, that every human being can feel it as such at a gut level. 


This unbalanced aggression is the parallel to Bush’s Iraq occupation. The Iraqis who are trying to fight the occupation know perfectly well that if they stopped fighting, if they demonstrated perfect peacableness for a day, a week, a year – Bush still would not refrain from the ongoing aggression. (He announced that he would proceed with the invasion –

Even if Saddam were to leave Iraq!)


This is no space to psychoanalyze Bush’s brittleness, selfishness and cruelty, though clearly he needs some help. (My own guess is that he is taking infinite revenge against all the “smart people” during Vietnam and afterward who belittled him.) Be it said that as an American, I am ashamed of Bush, and I want the world to know it.


I am ashamed of the big newspapers, too. Bush threw out another sop to the Washington Post last night: he is extending the “No Child” standardized testing to high schools. Among corporations that will benefit is The Post Co., which owns Kaplan and its subsidiaries and has already recouped several hundred million in operating revenues from the Bush brothers’ “education reforms.” For the record, I am an educator, and we have enough testing, test-prepping and tutoring already. All this prepping and tutoring does not “raise standards”; it skews standards.


But it’s not the WashPost’s reporting on the education bill that worries me. It’s the Post’s lack of genuine reporting on Bush, his brother Jeb, his family’s gains from the “war on terrorism,” that so-called war itself, the opposition to the invasion, the handling of 9/11,

and Bush’s ongoing central aims: (1) to invade the Middle East, and (2) to reverse the New Deal. Speaking of that, one of the biggest Orwellianisms in the speech, aside from calling a war of aggression pro-“freedom,” was GWBush’s quoting Franklin Roosevelt.

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