I did not watch the much-anticipated Bush speech.  The contents seem to have dribbled and leaked out ahead of time to such an extent that it seemed pointless to see the real thing.  As far as I can tell, I didn’t miss very much.  Still, it has been the cause of quite a lot of blogging and commentary, so let’s review some of the responses. 

Reaction has been decidedly mixed.  Was Mr. Bush’s speech a “clarion reaffirmation” of and “a defiant and ringing rededication” to his foreign policy goals and “Bush at his best,” or was it anemic, old hat, shockingly banal and laced with fear?  It would appear that those who have always been or who have become opponents of the war found the speech to be unusually bad, even by Mr. Bush’s standards, while those who remain among the true believers continue to thrill at Mr. Bush’s “unrelenting” and “defiant” approach to foreign affairs.  Notice that no one can describe Mr. Bush’s policies with words such as “successful,” “intelligent” or “well-designed,” but must always resort to adjectives that describe his sheer brute willpower and his refusal to yield.  He may be a horrible President, but he is unrelenting, so that makes it okay!  Like everything else in this administration, competence and success are eschewed in favour of striking the pose of profound resolve and unswerving determination.  Their motto might be: “We may not know what we’re doing, but we will never stop doing it no matter what happens.” 

Surprisingly, one true believer and Bush-lover who did not exult in Mr. Bush’s performance was the legendary bootlicker John Hinderaker, who said of the speech:

In the past, I’ve often said that President Bush has been more effective in televised speeches than he has been given credit for. Not tonight. I thought he came across as stiff, nervous, and anxious to get it over with. The importance of the issue seemed to overwhelm the President’s ability to communicate. I suspect that only a few listeners absorbed more than a general impression of what the new strategy is all about.

Meanwhile, Gerard Baker, U.S. editor of the Times, was virtually choking on the overuse of the phrase ”not only…but also!”  The speech accomplished so much in Mr. Baker’s estimation that it is a wonder that Mr. Bush was not able to reorganise matter on a mollecular level simply by speaking the proper incantation.  Conclude the Iraq war?  Why, that’s child’s play for the startlingly clear and defiantly unrelenting Mr. Bush. 

What exactly did he do in the speech?  He has defied his critics yet again–how does he do it?  Oh, right, by continuing to ignore any and all contrary arguments and doing whatever it is he thinks needs to be done.  According to some people, that is bold leadership.  Apparently, Mr. Bush’s great accomplishment is to remain steadfast against his critics.  His critics may be right about most things pertaining to Iraq, but still he defies them!  It is quite a sight to behold.  

Isn’t it odd that Mr. Baker seems to enthuse over Mr. Bush’s ability to defy his critics, as if it were difficult for a man with such tremendous power to defy other people in this country?  Behold, the President of the United States has not yielded to some bloggers and pundits–what courage!  Before you know it, Mr. Baker will be congratulating Mr. Bush for defying other equally powerless people: “Mr. Bush has defied the civilians of Iraq again!  Amazing!”  If Mr. Bush could put just a tenth of the energy he puts into defying his critics into his decision-making, he might be able to propose something for Iraq that does not seem absurd on its face.