SOTU Followup

SOTU FOLLOWUP….I was a little surprised this morning to see so many newspapers highlighting George Bush’s “addicted to oil” phrase, as though maybe this meant some sort of actual change of heart. My advice: don’t believe it until you see it. WiredOpinion trawled through all of Bush’s previous SOTU speeches and notes that he’s said essentially the same thing every single year since 2002. Result so far: nada.

In a similar vein, a fact-checking article in the LA Times notes that Bush’s call to reduce our Middle East oil imports by 75% is a little less dramatic than it seemed last night: “Experts point out that the U.S. gets only a fraction ? about 10% ? of its oil imports from the Middle East. In fact, the majority now comes from Canada and Mexico ? and Bush said nothing on Tuesday about them.” In other words, he called for reducing our use of imported oil by about 7% in 20 years. Yee haw!

Elsewhere, Grist does some number crunching on a question I asked about last night: just how impressive is a 22% increase in clean energy research? David Roberts figures it comes to $264 million. [UPDATE: Actually, it’s more like $660 million.] As he says, it’s not chump change, but it’s not exactly the Manhattan Project either.

Finally, you may recall that last night I commented that Bush’s defense of the NSA’s domestic spying program included “lies about previous presidents doing the same thing and federal courts having approved it.” I left it at that, but the LA Times fact checker did a little more legwork:

Bush Stretches to Defend Surveillance

Defending the surveillance program as crucial in a time of war, Bush said that “previous presidents have used the same constitutional authority” that he did. “And,” he added, “federal courts have approved the use of that authority.”

Bush did not name names, but was apparently reiterating the argument offered earlier this month by Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales, who invoked Presidents Lincoln, Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt for their use of executive authority.

However, warrantless surveillance within the United States for national security purposes was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1972 ? long after Lincoln, Wilson and Roosevelt stopped issuing orders. That led to the 1978 passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that Bush essentially bypassed in authorizing the program after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Since the surveillance law was enacted, establishing secret courts to approve surveillance, “the Supreme Court has not touched this issue in the area of national security,” said William Banks, a national security expert at Syracuse Law School.

“He might be speaking in the broadest possible sense about the president exercising his authority as commander-in-chief to conduct a war, which of course federal courts have upheld since the beginning of the nation,” Banks said. “If he was talking more particularly about the use of warrantless surveillance, then he is wrong.”

Come on guys. Give up on “stretches” and “wrong.” He lied.