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Bush's Priorities

On the national stage last night, President Bush made no mention of his off-the-cuff proposal to go to Mars, but he made sure to remind us that he wants the Patriot Act renewed.

The speech President Bush gave was much more about his own reelection campaign than about the state of the Union. As such, it suffered from the faults of most campaign speeches: too little information, too much vacuous rhetoric. But it is an important speech nevertheless, for it gives us a glimpse of how Bush will sell himself this time around.

Last time, remember, he was the "compassionate conservative" who would "govern from the middle." This year's sales pitch will be more closely tethered to reality. This time around, Bush will portray himself as the kind but strict father who will protect the nation from terrorists and gays, in roughly that order of priority.

Even as Bush tells us that our weakness against terrorists justifies a new Patriot Act, he will ask us to believe that the economy is "strong," and that it will be even stronger if we decide to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife refuge. He will tell us that minimizing the government's role in health care will "preserve freedom" even as patients are abandoned to the mercy of corporate insurance firms whose main goal is to boost their stock price by keeping sick people off their insurance rolls.

Bush's sales pitch this time around has the great benefit of being based on reality. Bush is a profoundly conservative man; almost messianic. His Administration will fight for these values (at least when Dick Cheney isn't selling the spoils of office to his cronies in the back hallway). And thus, Bush will appeal to roughly 1/2 of the American people. The other half will find him repellent, patronizing, authoritarian, and wholly unfit to lead our nation.

One thing that Bush's speech makes clear is that he won't try to hide, as he did last time, as a moderate. Now, we all know what Bush stands for, and this time he won't cowardly deny it like he did in 2000. The election of 2004 will be the most important Presidential election in a long time. Because this time around, the voters are likely to get what they ask for.


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The question is, what will they ask for? Will they ask for our country's highest office to be exploited like a crackwhore exploiting a short skirt, or will they ask for...um...what are the other choices again?

Basic politics 101. Appear moderate or even (God forbid) a tad liberal in times of peace like in the election of 2000. Appear conservative as a strong defender of the republic in times of war.

Maybe Bush will hang onto the minority who "elected" him last time.