Skip to main content.

Back to: >> Editorial

How Times Change

The State of the Union address has morphed from speeches by our first two presidents through letters from Jefferson's time down to Wilson who went back to speeches. It is now a ritual, a show for TV. Rarely will a sitting president in our day have anything new to say. It is now all about pomp and circumstance.

As for the actual state of the union, there are always better sources, for the union is now too complex to be described by even a day-long speech. Sometimes things happen so fast that the preamble is obsolete before such a speech is over. Nevertheless, the State Of The Union Speeches are not entirely useless, for they serve admirably as benchmarks for progress or lack thereof. The last seven years were high drama. Tsunamis, literally and metaphorically, tore at humanity's landmarks, monuments, towers, hovels and ideas alike. A hurricane altered both the face and the soul or a great and historic city--still to be properly rebuilt. A "brilliant" Neocon plan to master the world died ignominiously on the shoals of history.

Meanwhile human history flowed along in pace with nature's turmoil. A seven year snap-shot follows with commentary.

Year State Of The Union Goals 2000-2007 History
2001 Compassionate Conservatism.
Improve Education.
Work With Congress
None Came About, but 9/11 did.
Dramatic Military Victory in Afghanistan.
Political Situations Unstable In Iraq And Afghanistan.
Nation And World Divided Over Wars.
2002 Axis of Evil is Our Enemy.
Americans losing jobs need expanding economy.
North Korea Achieves Nuclear Capability.
Iran Enriching Uranium With Capacity To Weaponize.
Job Growth Rate Lowest Since Hoover Administration.
2003 Prepare For War In Iraq. War Came; Chaos Ensued.
Political Instability Endemic.
Oil Production Below Prewar Levels.
2004 Hunting WMD
I Am A War President--On TV.
Road High Through Election.
No WMD existed In Iraq.
2005 Reform Social Security.
Spread Freedom Everywhere
Strengthen Economy.
Not One Worked Out As Planned.
2006 Eliminate Tyranny Everywhere.
Reject Isolationism.
Mid-term Elections Curtail Unitary Presidency.
US More Isolated Than Ever.
2007 Hope, Opportunity Begin With A Growing Economy. Overheated Housing Market Collapsed.
Foreclosures Shook Mortgage Market, Nation's Confidence.
2008 Stimulate The Economy.
The Surge Is Working.
Cut Pork.
Economy is heading down.
New Orleans Still Chaotic.
Self Governance Remote For Afghanistan Or Iraq.
Signed Bills With Over $100 Billion In Pork In Seven Years.
So Much For Compassionate Conservatism.

But that happens when these events degrade to the level of propaganda also known as false promises. Compared with seven years ago, isn't the real state of the union more like the following?

  • Americans have become more divided, more polarized
  • America as a nation is more isolated and hence more vulnerable
  • Our economy is weaker, less stable
  • We are more indebted than ever before
  • Job creation rates are at historic lows
  • Americans are now less equal economically and politically
  • Some of our constitutional rights have been eroded for no apparent gain
  • America is mired in two endless "wars" that are not winnable in the historic meaning of winning a war
  • America's armed services are stretched much too thin, are too exhausted
  • America's industrial-society infrastructure is in decline
  • We are less capable of facing dangers from the natural world, less concerned when disaster happens
  • Energy and health-care costs have risen faster than real wages
  • Perhaps most significantly, America has become a nation largely in denial

The foregoing leaves out a lot. But there is a striking feature: an administration that started out highly optimistic that it could change the world, that it could spread its own style of democracy throughout the Middle East, and corner oil supplies in the process, gradually folded its wings to defending its history and promising to cut PORK after dishing out over a hundred billion in "ear marks." This is the legacy.

And this feature is not new. Societies that ignore history, are doomed to repeat it as stubbornly and surely as waves pound the shores.

What is it about human nature that prevents us
from quitting while we are ahead?


No comments yet

To be able to post comments, please register on the site.