Feminist response to State of the Union address

George Bush’s State of the Union speech was the public kickoff of his taxpayer-funded public relations campaign to convince an increasingly skeptical public that all is well – or will be if we just put our faith in him and believe.

That he’s concerned about boys and girls growing up without guidance and attention – this while he’s working to require poor moms to leave their kids for an added 10 hours a week because “work is good for you” (Note to parents: all that child care you’re doing? That’s not work).

That he’s “calling corporate criminals to account,” even though his administration looks the other way – and even refused to release records of bigwig meetings with Enron, the granddaddy of corporate scandal.

That he really cares about the education of girls in Afghanistan, although their schools have been bombed and burned since the Bush administration vetoed the UN’s effort to send additional security troops into the country.

That millionaires are suffering and need huge tax cuts, while state budgets are crashing and the jobless rate continues to grow.

That preparing for a war on Iraq isn’t about oil, and a pre-emptive strike doctrine doesn’t violate basic norms of international law. That an unprovoked attack on Iraq won’t alienate U.S. allies, inflame anti-U.S. passion, and make us more susceptible than ever to terrorist attacks.

That Medicare should be privatized and no one will notice as long as it’s called “choice.” Bush says he wants to “put doctors and patients back in charge of American medicine” while pushing a plan that will herd low-income seniors into HMOs – as the price of a mediocre prescription drug benefit.

That the government should funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to “faith- based” organizations for discriminatory social service programs – Bush always conveniently fails to mention that religious organizations already can and do receive millions in federal social service dollars – but they’re not allowed to discriminate against employees or clients.

That he really wants to help stop AIDS in Africa to the tune of $15 billion, yet his administration recently fought to prevent the use of condoms to stop the spread of AIDS around the world. Talk about needing a reality check!

Here’s some more of what Bush would have us believe, based on his policy proposals – but avoided mentioning:

That it’s okay if Bush succeeds in packing the federal courts with right-wing ideologues in the mold of Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas – who needs an independent judiciary anyhow. After all, didn’t Bush promise us in the 2000 debates that there wouldn’t be a litmus test on judges?

That affirmative action for the sons of wealthy alumni is perfectly fine, but it’s an impermissible racial “quota” if it’s intended to remedy ongoing discrimination against people of color – and that Bush wasn’t race baiting when he called the University of Michigan’s affirmative action program a “quota” system.

That embryos and fetuses should have a legal status that trumps the fundamental rights of girls and women – and makes life-saving stem cell research difficult.

That federal funding for family planning clinics should be choked off while hundreds of millions of dollars are funneled to “fathers’ rights” groups that blame women for men’s abuse and irresponsible behavior.

That women and teenage girls won’t again die from illegal abortion if Bush succeeds in overturning Roe v. Wade.

George W. Bush says that this is a “time of great consequence.” We say: “Who will pay the consequences?” It’s time for a reality check.

Although Bush’s rhetoric is often reminiscent of “Opposite Day” in kindergarten, when teachers and children say just the opposite of what they really mean, the U.S. public isn’t fooled. We know Bush’s war on Iraq is wrong. We also know that Bush’s economic and tax policies are both inequitable and disastrous for the economy. We know, too, that funding for education is imperiled, that quality health care is out of reach for more and more people, and that our rights – women’s rights, civil rights and individual liberties – are under assault as they haven’t been in over a decade.

We’re not fooled and we’re fighting back. Bush’s advisors know he would lose the support of a U.S. public that knew the whole story, so NOW will continue to dissect the White House’s white lies.

Kim Gandy is President of the National Organization for Women, www.now.org.