Perhaps I've become jaded from all the mudslinging and partisan rhetoric, but I was frankly shocked at some of the things Bush said in both his address and later when answering questions. (I found a full transcript at FoxNews.) The comments were (to me) much more middle-of-the-road than I expected from a president that the left derides as a "neocon puppet".
Three moments in particular drew my attention.
Unless I am reading this language incorrectly, three of the four bullet points reference conservation or alternative fuel sources. That's something I'd expect in a Green party speech, not a Republican one.
To reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy, we must take four key steps.First, we must better use technology to become better conservers of energy.
And secondly, we must find innovative and environmentally sensitive ways to make the most of our existing energy resources, including oil, natural gas, coal and safe, clean nuclear power.
Third, we must develop promising new sources of energy, such as hydrogen, ethanol or bio-diesel.
Fourth, we must help growing energy consumers overseas, like China and India, apply new technologies to use energy more efficiently and reduce global demand of fossil fuels.
I think this was an excellent point. There's been talk, even from democratic leaders, bemoaning the fact that the Democratic party is failing to present new ideas, instead choosing to be reactionary, argumentative, and negative. This would seem to be an opening to change that behavior. After all, if Bush offered to listen to ideas from either party and none are suggested from one side, how will that be interpreted, historically?
In the coming days and weeks I'll work with both the House and the Senate as they take the next steps in the legislative process. I'm willing to listen to any good idea from either party.
Too often the temptation in Washington is to look at a major issue only in terms of whether it gives one political party an advantage over the other. Social Security is too important for politics as usual.
And finally, in answer to a rather confrontational question regarding judicial confirmations, Bush said:
I think people are opposing my nominees because they don't like the judicial philosophy of the people I've nominated. And some would like to see judges legislate from the bench. That's not my view of the proper role of a judge.and
The great thing about America is that you should be allowed to worship any way you want. And if you chose not to worship, you're equally as patriotic as somebody who does worship. And if you choose to worship, you're equally American if you're a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim.In past speeches, I've felt the President Bush has stressed his own personal faith too much. These comments were much more moderate than I would have expected.
Overall, I'd have to say that the speech and responses seemed to me were written with a mind on how the current administration will be viewed historically. There was much more of an effort to appear moderate as opposed to stubbornly sticking to a few talking points. Time will tell whether the change in attitude will be followed through in action.