Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Uniter?

I must say I was somewhat taken aback at the President's speech tonight. In the middle of it, I turned to a friend and said, "He sounds like FDR." Not in terms of eloquence (though by Bush's standards, he was pretty solid), but in terms of rhetoric. I heard the comparison to Roosevelt and LBJ made by Chris Matthews and Joe Scarborough many times in the post speech coverage. Scarborough seemed incredulous and outright angry - reiterating the sizable price tag for Bush's promises and questioning who was going to pay for this.

I was particularly stunned by Bush's statement that the cycle of poverty afflicting minorities in New Orleans was the effect of past racial discrimination. That's the second time my jaw hit the floor this week. But it didn't stop there. Bush went on to discuss how we can use the federal government to address the residual effects of state sanctioned and societal racism that are, after all, only a few decades from being raging problems. Because in much of America, to quote Faulkner, "the past isn't dead, it isn't even past."

Substantively, Bush outlined a laundry list of tools to combat intractable poverty, in many ways linked to the legacy of racism: job training programs, education credits, homestead programs to give poor people a chance to get a house at no cost from Federal lands, housing assistance, child care assistance, incentives for minority businesses, assistance to small business, etc.

In general, he discussed using the Federal government in a way that most conservatives would bristle at if the words were spoken by a Democrat. His proposals were Roosevelt-ian in scope - including $200 billion for a massive government rebuilding effort. As Scarborough said, it was reminiscent of "The WPA on steroids." Bush sounded like a liberal, with a solid grasp of persistent race-based problems in the United States. In short, it was very disconcerting.

But my question to Republicans and conservatives is this: Do you agree with the rhetoric Bush used tonight? Do you agree with the concepts promoted (leaving aside the potential for gaps between words and performance)? Will you loyally praise the President's bold vision and problem solving instincts? Will you defend his proposals if attacked?

Because if so, what on earth have we been fighting about for the past 50 years? It must have been one big misunderstanding. Who knew we were in agreement this whole time. And it took George W. Bush to show us the light.

Now can we all agree that other cities like Detroit, NYC, Los Angeles, Oakland and elsewhere, are also suffering from, as Bush would say, the inequality of opportunity caused by past discrimination? I mean, why stop with New Orleans. Right? Now that we agree.

[Doc Demarche, if you're out there, what do you say about Bush's reference to racism? Sounds like Richard Haass no?]

[Update: For the reader's edification, the portion of Bush's speech on race that I referenced above:

As all of us saw on television, there's also some deep, persistent poverty in this region, as well. That poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action.
Shocking. I never knew Bush and I agreed on this? And as Billmon points out, this, at the very least, will be one we can take away from last night's performance:

All that said, I still appreciate the fact that he raised the issue. And the next time some mouth-breather at Free Republic starts ranting about the goddamned welfare queens in New Orleans, or a pseudointellectual twit starts babbling infantile nonsense about "tribes," I hope somebody will let them know their beloved president disagrees with them.
(hat tip to Billmon for excerpting the relevant text as well)]

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