It could have been worse.
Bush didn’t propose a whole lot of new spending, which is a plus. And what little he did propose has little chance of getting enacted. That’s an even bigger plus.
Leaving aside all the policy stuff – because who really cares this late at night? – what most interested me was Bush’s conciliatory tone. There could be two reasons for it:
1. Bush knows he’s a lame duck.
2. Bush is setting a Conciliation Trap for the Democrats in the midterm election.
Of course, both reasons might be true.
The lame duck angle is worth looking at a little more. Any second-term President is automatically lame, but Bush risks being even duckier than most. The reason, of course, is that there’s not a chance in hell his Vice President is going to run in the next election. Reagan could threaten “four more years” with GHW Bush waiting in the wings. Clinton did the same with Gore – although he could have threatened more loudly. That is, if he and Gore had still liked each other. Or had Gore been an actual member of the human race. Cheney won’t be a contender in ’08 for a variety of reasons – which might help explain Bush’s attitude tonight.
The Conciliation Trap is self-explanatory, but I’ll spell it out for the slower kids. With the notable (and commendable) exception of Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, most of the national-level Democrats don’t come off as very nice people. Bush played nice tonight, and if he keeps playing tough-but-nice until November, it sets up the Republicans for some “nice” victories next fall.
Whatever is going on, we’ll have lots of fun watching it play out over the next nine months.