I know that no one has been waiting with baited breath for my analysis of the President's speech, but I'm going to give it anyway. I wanted to give it some time to sink in, before I posted, so I could contrast my initial reaction with a more measured one.
Initially, I felt the President made a strong case for a second term and made me feel better about casting a vote for him. His speech touched on many important (and politically astute) issues, before moving into a stirring speech on America's role in the world and closing strongly with an emotional segment that served to humanize him. Overall, he seemed more confident and comfortable in his presentation than I've ever seen him, except, possibly, immediately after 9/11.
My reaction a day later, is pretty much the same. I felt his presentation had more depth than Kerry's acceptance speech and did a much better job of laying out the goals of a second Bush term than Kerry did the goals of a first Kerry term. The petulent response of Kerry to the speech later that night only served to underline this belief.
Bush starts with a brief tribute to the heros of 9/11. It was a nice intro given the video tribute on Bush and his reaction to 9/11 that was skillfully narrated by Fred Thompson.
Bush rolled through his family, pointing out what I think only helps him with women--the women around him. Laura is very popular with all the women I know and the Bush twins, I think, remind a lot of women of who they were (or wanted to be) in their 20s. Barbara was always more popular than George H.W. Bush.
A quick reference to Reagan, clearly a hero of the party and we're off to the future.
Bush presents a laundry list of domestic programs under the theme of reorienting government to help people achieve individual greatness.
"I believe this nation wants steady, consistent, principled leadership. And that is why, with your help, we will win this election. " -- Come election day, I think this could be prophetic. I think this is very true for a lot voters. These voters may not like Bush a lot, but when it comes times to pull the lever, push the button, check the box, or punch (completely) through the chad... they will be voting for the candidate who they think most represents someone terrorists will be afraid of.
The section on reorganizing work rules is one I know a bit about and Bush hit the right issues. Many of the problems today are from old work rules that unions work to protect, but that hold back workers in the changed dynamic of today's workforce. Kerry seems willing to promise that old industrial jobs will come back... Bush recognized the truth that these jobs are gone forever and that government must help those workers and the workplace adjust to a new reality that will be more prosperous than the one we left behind. The flex-time issue is extremely popular--especially with women. Politically astute policy. Stephen Green seems to agree.
The section on trade sounds very free-trade, but is balanced with the use of 'fair,' a word passed about by those advocating a return to economic protectionism. I think Bush is a free-trader at heart. If I was a cynic, I might suggest the steel tarrifs were a very well calculated move to try to steal steelworker votes. Bush and his advisors most likely knew the WTO would make them withdraw the tarrifs, but he gained political capital by trying.
Everyone hates paying taxes... every one hates the paperwork...
The speech seems to be optimistic on most things...
"I know that with the right skills, American workers can compete with anyone, anywhere in the world. "
Partial privatization of social security for young workers... probably not a bad political move... I wonder who picks up the bill when they lose everything with bad investments... but, regardless, I think with a lot of young individuals controlling the money they see disappear from their paycheck is probably popular.
"Soft bigotry of low expectations." -- Great line. This reminds me of my high school golf coach would argued against affirmative action by telling African-America students that he believed they were as smart as white students and that they could do just as well and achieve just as much. He would tell them that Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton didn't think they could--parents didn't like that very much.
Speaking in Spanish--one line, but clearly more important the languages rattled off by THK at the D convention. This one was of more substance (arguably) and in a much more important language than French or Portuegese in terms of votes.
Students do need more education. The Employment Policy Foundation has a lot of evidence that America is heading toward a skilled labor shortage because of lower numbers of college graduates in the younger generation. Even a two-year degree means significantly lower unemployment rates and higher pay.
Bush used humor effectively in his speech. Particularly at the end. The line here about Kerry was funny...
"He's proposed more than $2 trillion in new federal spending so far, and that's a lot, even for a senator from Massachusetts."
Bush and his speechwriters make a brilliant maneuver to gloss over some of his most contentious (and least compassionate) sections.... abortion and gay marriage. I'm glad he doesn't dwell on them, because they are weak positions that are difficult to defend. To a certain extent, it is the judiciary's job to be activist. They have always been the branch that protects the minority at the expense of the majority. Claiming they are legislating from the bench is disingenious in this historical light.
Bush segues nicely into foreign policy.
Overall, Bush reminds us of what we have gone through and makes a fairly effective case for his response to the threats he feels we've faced. He makes the decision to go to war with Iraq seem a heavy one, answering critics who complain he rushed to war. He also effectively reminds us of the decade of sanctions Saddam had defied before the action. The case for ward was made much more strongly in this speech than in earlier ones by being more honest about the benefits of an established democracy in the Middle East.
Bush quickly mentioned some of the successes his administration has had... Pakistan is now a stronger ally of the United States, though we still have disagreements. Relations with Libya have warmed as a result of the calculated decision to declare and disband their nuclear weapons program. Afghanistan has been pulled out from underneath Al Qaeda as a training ground.
The foreign policy theme places off of the domestic theme--increased freedom and liberty. He harkens to America's historic role as a beacon of freedom spreading liberty around the world. Pope John Paul VI in 1967 challenged Christians, "If you want peace, work for justice." True justice can only be had in countries where sovereignty rests with the people and not the government. Bush is outlining an ambitious goal of promoting peace through the spread of liberty and democracy. Bush: "Because of you, the world is more just and will be more peaceful."
Bush blasts Kerry over his vote against funding the $87 billion appropriations bill for military spending. Kerry's nack for putting his foot in his mouth hurts him here.
Bush pays tribute to the allies helping in Iraq and Afghanistan. He takes Kerry to task for referring to our allies as a "coalition of the coerced and the bribed." It is important that Americans realize that while we shoulder the majority of the burden, particularly in Iraq, many countries are providing support or troops that are important to our efforts there. The U.S. effort in Iraq can not possibly be accurately described as "unilateral." Bush's ability to make this personal by thanking the soldiers personally makes his point even stronger.
Bush presents his sweeping vision of the U.S. as a bringer of liberty. He speaks in inspiring tones about the power of liberty. He mentions specifically Palestinians, Israel, the citizens of Afghanistan and Iraq. He emphasizes equality and justice as part of liberty.
America has done this kind of work before, and there have always been
doubters. In 1946, 18 months after the fall of Berlin to allied forces, a
journalist wrote in the New York Times wrote this: "Germany is a land in an
acute stage of economic, political and moral crisis. European capitals are
frightened. In every military headquarters, one meets alarmed officials
doing their utmost to deal with the consequences of the occupation policy that
they admit has failed," end quote.
Maybe that same person is still around, writing editorials.
Brilliant. The Times isn't going to endorse him anyway. Some people (and papers) insist that the glass is half empty and can never see the half that is full.
Bush warns that achieving his vision will not be easy. He notes that
America has always been willing to sacrafice for the freedom of others.
This moment in the life of our country will be remembered. Generations will
know if we kept our faith and kept our word. Generations will know if we seized
this moment and used it to build a future of safety and peace. The freedom
of many and the future security of our nation now depend on us.
And tonight, my fellow Americans, I ask you to stand with me.
I thought the speech was done as this point and it wouldn't have been bad if it was. Bush goes on to a bit that admits his weaknesses--bluntness, swagger, and his verbal gaffes. I think this is good--it's hard not to forgive someone for the faults they recognize. Plus, bluntness and swagger (confidence) may not be seen as big faults by many. I'm not the only one who thinks this self-deprecating humor was effective.
The rest of the speech was an emotional comment on 9/11. This sort of brings the speech full circle, without spending the entire speech dwelling on the tragedy. The end of the speech is soaring--"our tested and confident nation can achieve anything."
Like generations before us, we have a calling from beyond the stars to stand for
freedom. This is the everlasting dream of America. And tonight, in this
place, that dream is renewed.
That's my take... overall a very strong speech and terrific speech for Bush. We will see how the rest of the country takes it. Instapundit thinks it was good, but not great (though great for Bush). Libertarian Stephen Green thinks he's more comfortable in Bush's America than Kerry's...despite Bush's faults. Professor Bainbridge described parts of it as "almost Reagan-esque" and "Probably the best speech I've heard a Republican presidential candidate give since Reagan's prime." Allah says "four points, no more, no less."