From David Corn:
He produced grand and effective political theater. In the middle of the address, he transformed the war in Iraq--which even after the historic election there arguably remains his largest liability--into a single, powerfully poignant moment. Exploiting the tradition of inviting symbolically significant guests to sit with the First Lady, Bush introduced the mother of a US Marine killed in Fallujah and an Iraqi human rights advocate whose father had been assassinated by Saddam Hussein and who had voted in Sunday’s election. With the House chamber awash with emotion, the two women hugged. Bush was near tears. Members of Congress--perhaps including those legislators who had dyed their index fingers purple for the event--were crying. In a nutshell, here was Bush’s story of sacrifice, liberty and freedom. Sentiment--sincere sentiment--was in full synch with spin. The not-too-hidden partisan message: Match that, you naysayers. This was a triumph of political communication. And it was a reminder that despite the apparent difficulties Bush faces in his top-priority effort to partially privatize Social Security, he should hardly be counted out. This man does what it takes.
From Harold Meyerson:
What a time for George W. Bush to learn how to deliver a speech. Compared with his past performances, he was a g-----n [pardon my delicacy, but this is a family blog]Demosthenes during Tuesday night’s State of the Union address.
That’s in good part because he had more to say. Last year’s State of the Union is memorable for abandoning Mars and declaring war on steroids. Now, it’s the Bush agenda that’s on steroids.
For one thing, the election in Iraq has finally made it possible for the president to point to a positive consequence -- however transient it may prove to be -- of his decision to go to war recklessly and wage it stupidly. Unlike past years, when Bush came before Congress insisting ridiculously that Iraq posed a mortal threat to the United States, he came before Congress and teared up as an American mother who’d lost her son embraced an Iraqi daughter who’d lost her father. The moment was not just the emotional center of the speech; it was the emotional center of his presidency, imparting to his tenure in office something it’s lacked since the United States ousted the Taliban: a plausible raison d’être.
These are, of course, straws in the wind, but the successful election in Iraq has silenced the critics, or at least made it difficult for them to say anything "bold." Witness Nancy Pelosi’s plastic performance last night: if you do what we say (that is, what you’re already doing), then the next round of elections in December will be significantly better. Gee, that’s tough talk!
Lest we forget John Kerry (who won’t let us, however much we try):
But the greatest tribute to the memory of the fallen is an exit strategy called success.
I think the President said that, more clearly and elegantly. On Iraq and foreign policy in general, the Democrats do not have a plausible alternative.