It was the domestic half that I found more interesting. Like it or not (I don't), we are on the eve of war with Iraq; and no matter what its origins or motivations, we truly are faced with the challenge of a small but determined group of fanatics who want to do harm to our country and its people. How we should react to that is a subject for debate, but it cannot be denied. We are behaving like a country at war. So what should be going on in our borders, for the benefit of the people we are reputedly going to war to protect and defend, is of particular interest.
In the Second World War, we faced a much clearer enemy. Far from a handful of shadowy individuals with no purpose or name, or even a rogue state who sought some of the power we already possessed, we were pitched against a pair of global powers. We knew what we fought for: not the flaunting of United Nations resolutions, not human rights abuses, not the far-off possibility that a country we had deemed less morally stable than our own might some day develop one of the weapons we had by the thousands. Indeed, we weren't even fighting because our opponents were madmen (though at least one of them was), or to avenge thousands of deaths. We fought because we faced a legitimate, absolute, imminent threat. If we had not fought Hitler, Europe would almost certainly have fallen under the sway of Naziism. (Whereas if we don't fight Saddam Hussein, what happens?) We did not have to be coerced to war, to be cajoled or convinced, because the reasons were clear and no ulterior motive was discernable: there was this immediate danger, and there was us, looking down the barrel of its guns.
At that time, though, it is also edifying to look at what our domestic priorities were. Then, as now, we had a leader who told us that we were fighting for safety, security, and basic human rights; then, as now, we were told that each one of us had a stake in what happened as a result of the war. But then, we had a president who behaved as if every one of us were worth fighting for. His domestic agenda required sacrifice from everyone; he announced to the nation that taxes would increase, because the war would have to be paid for, and everyone (save the plutocratic elite, who would not even speak his name, so much did they resent his lessening their vast fortunes) understood that this was the case. He supported labor and was a friend of the unions. He pushed through social programs the likes of which had never been seen before. He created a structure that would ensure that the working poor would not be abandoned in retirement. He instituted a series of public works projects that resulted in practical benefits, artistic acheivement and massive job creation. He acted as if any solution to the economic crisis should concentrate the most on those who suffered the greatest.
What about our current president? He preaches spending, not sacrifice. The notion of a tax hike is anathema to him; one senses that he would rather lay the national sword at the gates of Baghdad than require the people to pay for his massive tax cuts and bloated war spending. (No plutocratic tongues are reluctant to form his name; they sing his praises from the rooftops.) He looks upon labor at best as a dinosaur and at worse a treasonous fifth column. He seeks to eliminate social programs, or, failing that, place them in the hands of churches and private industry. He wants to convert Social Security into an institutionalized Ponzi scheme that will favor only those who need it the least. His idea of job creation is based on a service model, as skilled labor is farmed out to the lowest bidder; when he speaks the words "job creation", the idea behind them is not benefiting the people who do the jobs, but the people who pay the salaries. His domestic agenda has consisted of plans to restrict abortion; to loosen the requirements of Title IX; to tighten the stranglehold the war on drugs has placed our country in; to weaken unions; to hamper regulation; to castrate the laws which protect the environment; to increase our dependence on limited natural resources; to undo what has been done to help level the playing field for minorities; and to increase the profits made by mammoth corporations and weathly stockholders. In short, he has directed his domestic policy to making sure that those who have been lucky get luckier, and those who have been unlucky stay unlucky.
At a time when we are all being entreated to support a war to protect our citizens, why is it that the president seems to find only a tiny minority of those citizens worth protecting?