I NOTICED that Nancy Pelosi quickly started applause when Bush delivered the line about crossing the aisle when there’s work to be done.
She jumped to her feet when Bush mentioned balancing the federal budget, too. But not when he said “we can do so without raising taxes.”
Boy, the earmark thing is right up front. Cool. (Stephen Green: “Even Congress applauded Bush’s promise to halve earmarks by the end of the session. Yeah, let’s see where that goes, Mr. Reid.”) (LATER: Jon Henke emails from Sen. McConnell’s office: “It is, frankly, a major feather in the cap of Porkbusters and the blogosphere. It was bloggers who brought this to public attention and into the President’s State of the Union address.” That’s nice. Let’s watch for follow-through.)
No Pelosi applause for school choice! But she leaps to her feet for “affordable health care.” Not for private insurance, though.
Pelosi rockets to her feet for reducing gasoline consumption 20% in the next 10 years. But Charles Grassley looks overjoyed at “renewable fuels.” Pork marinated in ethanol?
Pelosi doesn’t jump up for Bush’s recognition of “the serious challenge of global climate change.” Why not?
Terror: On “We must take the fight to the enemy,” it’s Cheney who jumps up. (He can do that?) Pelosi follows much more slowly.
On terror, Bush’s understated delivery, quoting Zarqawi et al., is pretty effective, especially for him. Pelosi jumps to her feet again at the end of this section; I wasn’t expecting that.
Bush’s “root causes” section (“free people are not drawn to violent and malignant ideologies”) seems like the part he’s most into. Cut to Condi looking pretty intense, too. His discussion on Iran’s response to 2005 elections by fomenting trouble in Lebanon, etc., is the kind of spelling-out the Administration should have been doing all along.
He does a good job of spelling out the consequences of losing in Iraq. Cut to shot of Joe Biden looking bored. (Who’s picking these crowd shots — I’m watching ABC — Karl Rove?) Unfortunate Bush smirk during applause.
Best line: “Whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure.” Pelosi rockets to her feet when he asks Congress to support the troops, and those on their way.
What’s a “volunteer civilian reserve corps?” Not very clear, even after he explains. (Meghan Hammond emails: “volunteer civilian reserve corps ‘sounds like the first step to the draft’ says my brother” — I don’t think so, but this is the price Bush pays for not being clearer.)
Lots of applause for not allowing Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons.
Stephen Green criticizes: “All this ‘surge’ talk strikes me as unnecessary and probably unwise. I don’t remember any stories about FDR talking up D-Day before the fact, and trying to weasel support out of Congress for it.” FDR had a different Congress.
Bush on Africa: Asks for a lot. He’s done a lot, but won’t get much credit, for fighting AIDS and malaria there. Lots of applause, though.
Big windup on “the spirit and character of America.” Not bad, and mercifully brief.
Sum-up: Not bad, especially for Bush, who’s no great shakes as a speaker. His recent speaking events have been weak even by his standards, but this was one of his better speeches. Will it help him? Not so clear. He seemed more comfortable and cheerful while working the crowd than he’s seemed lately, too. [LATER: Charlie Gibson thinks the same thing.]
On substance? The war on terror stuff was good, but his speeches on that are always good, on substance if not delivery. Follow-through has been the weak point. Domestically? He’ll be the best Democratic President since Bill Clinton.
UPDATE: Robert Mayer says that Bush is bringing back democracy as an element in foreign policy.
And Justin Beckley emails: “Is it just me, or does it not look great for America when a coach at Georgetown converts an aspiring med student into a basketball phenom?”
Mary Katharine Ham: “All right, so the best part of the night, by far, is the candid shot Fox has of Bush shaking hands after the speech. The audio’s really good, and you get to hear all the butt-kissing up close. Dennis Kucinich leans in again. The Nutroots will make you pay, Dennis.” [LATER: The netroots noticed.]
MORE: Reader Debbie Eberts emails in response to Justin Beckley: “The reader who was cranky about Dikembe Mutombo becoming a basketball phenom instead of a doctor. Um, did he not read the whole paragraph – ‘Mutombo’s foundation has funded a large portion of a $27 million dollar hospital opening in Kinshasa, which will be the first new hospital in the Congo in 40 years.’ Maybe Mutombo can do more good for health care as a well-paid and famous basketball player than he would have as a doctor. Frankly, I think that speaks very well of America. Lighten up.” He probably didn’t read that, because I added the link so that readers who didn’t watch the speech would know what he was talking about.
MORE STILL: Dean Barnett liked the actual speech more than his SOTU FAQs linked below predicted.
My favorite SOTU is still the one where I was shacked up with the Insta-Wife at a secure, undisclosed location and missed the speech entirely. By that standard, Bush has slipped. . . .