Tonight's State of the Union address was remarkable for all sorts of things -- the Democrats who openly jeered George Bush when he fudged the facts about the future of Social Security, the Republicans who wore purple ink on their fingers to celebrate the Iraqi elections, the Iraqi woman whose father was murdered by Saddam Hussein embracing the mother of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq. But the most remarkable thing of all might be the dearth of new ideas from a president just beginning a second term in office.
On energy policy, Bush pushed the same "comprehensive energy bill" he proposed four years ago. On social issues, he offered up his usual talk about a "culture of life" and the same constitutional amendment on gay marriage that went nowhere a year ago. On judicial appointments, he gave his usual speech about the need for up-or-down votes on nominees and the dangers of judges who "legislate from the bench." When Bush accepted the Republican presidential nomination last summer, he vowed that he would "lead a bipartisan effort to reform and simplify the federal tax code." Tonight, he delivered the old news that he has appointed a commission to study the issue.
There was some new in the speech. Bush sketched out, at least a little, the details of his plan for private investment accounts. He announced that Laura Bush will become -- and really, is there a more improbable role for her? -- the administration gangbanger-banger in chief. And Bush said he'll ask Congress to commit $350 million "to support Palestinian political, economic and security reforms." It sounds like a big number; in fact, it's just a little more than the price of one of those fancy newhelicopters the president has ordered.
If this is Bush's bold agenda for the second term, it's hard not to be underwhelmed.