It was the ghost of State of The Unions past. Five years ago, President Bush used the SOTU to forcefully make the case for war with Iraq. Remember "the British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa?" Those were the days.
The USA Today headline
for last night's speech? "Bush Tries to Show That He's Still on The Job." Ouch.
Nothing was a bigger tell of the desperation here than the heroic centerpiece of Bush's address. It's pretty safe to say that before the Bush administration, most Americans had no idea what an earmark was. But Bush, the earmark president, the man who presided over and enabled the Republican Congress during the Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham scandals, changed that. And now he's decided that he's really going to bring the hammer down on the practice now that the Republicans no longer run Congress (actually not so much bring the hammer down as threaten to bring the hammer down right before he leaves office).
The major papers didn't even go to the trouble of taking him seriously.
The Boston Globe
has a rundown
of the watchdog disdain for Bush's crackdown. And The New York Times
had a straightforward take:
President Bush has never shown much distaste for Congressional pork.
But in his last year in office, with his party out of power on Capitol Hill, he declared Monday that he had had enough.
In the last seven years he has signed spending bills containing about 55,000 earmarks worth more than $100 billion for projects....
In his State of the Union address Monday night, Mr. Bush threatened to veto future spending bills unless Congress cut in half the number of earmarks, which now total more than 10,000 items and nearly $20 billion annually....
Mr. Bush was notably silent on the subject until after his fellow Republicans lost control of Congress in the 2006 midterm elections. And, now that his power has waned, his threats are almost certain not to matter.