Wednesday, January 24, 2007

State of the Union

The text is available here.

I believe the line of the night goes to my wife. When the President stated that 'we can balance the budget - without raising taxes,' she commented 'Pelosi looks like a cheerleader who doesn't understand football. She doesn't know whether to stand up and applaud or not.'

I'll be interested to learn more regarding the President's plan to reduce gasoline consumption in the US by 20 percent in the next 10 years. According to the Energy Information Administration, gasoline consumption in the US has gone up an average of about 1.6% annually in the last 10 years. It has continued to climb through steep price increases and the advent of hybrid vehicles. To arrest that increase and reverse it by 20 percent would be a dramatic achievement indeed - bringing us back approximately to 1986 levels.

Color me skeptical.

For what it's worth, the Congressional Budget Office reports that 43% of the petroleum consumed in the US is in the form of gasoline. So a reduction of 20 percent from current levels would mean a significant drop in oil use - all other things being equal.

On Iraq, I doubt last night's speech made any difference at all. The domestic political questions are settled, and the speech probably won't influence the only remaining question - whether we win or lose.

When I say that the domestic political questions are settled, I mean first that the President will get his surge. Whether due to respect for the constitutional authority of the Commander in Chief, or political calculation, the Democrats will not block it. Second, the war has failed - at least as far as domestic politics goes. The media and the Democratic party have too much invested in that failure to let it slip from their grasp now. If Baghdad is ultimately secure, and oil revenue is shared, and the Maliki government can stabilize the nation, then the goalposts will be moved here in the US, so Bush can be blamed.

The history books have not been written of course, and if the surge does succeed, objectively, then Bush may someday be regarded as the man who remade the Middle East and set us on the course for winning the War on Terror. He can still hope for that.

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