On Monday, January 28th, President Bush delivered his last State of the Union speech in the Chamber of the U.S. House of Representatives. The speech begin at 8:08 p.m. CST and ended at 9:02 p.m.

In paragraphs twelve and thirteen of his State of the Union address, President Bush tackles the subject of Congressional earmarks:

The people’s trust in their government is undermined by congressional earmarks — special interest projects that are often snuck in at the last minute, without discussion or debate. Last year, I asked you to voluntarily cut the number and cost of earmarks in half. I also asked you to stop slipping earmarks into committee reports that never even come to a vote. Unfortunately, neither goal was met. So this time, if you send me an appropriations bill that does not cut the number and cost of earmarks in half, I’ll send it back to you with my veto. 

And tomorrow, I will issue an executive order that directs federal agencies to ignore any future earmark that is not voted on by Congress. If these items are truly worth funding, Congress should debate them in the open and hold a public vote.

Forget the clunky use of the irregular verb ‘snuck’ when ‘sneaked’ probably works better and is certainly more formal. I think these two paragraphs define the lack of leadership this adminstration has shown during its two terms in office. Seven years after being elected, he criticizes earmarks. And since he failed to veto any bill at all until July 20, 2006, when his first veto was cast for the stem cell bill, five years after he took office; he has vetoed the fewest bills of anyone President since Warren Harding, forty-three presidents ago.

While not even addressing earmarks until his seventh State of the Union speech, he is trying to lay land mines for the next administration. His executive order probably isn’t constitutional, and if it is what good does it do? Next year, the new President can simply rescind it. I’m not saying earmarks shouldn’t be analyzed and controlled more, but I am asking, “Where’s the leadership been until now?”

It is my opinion that the Republican controlled Congress and President Bush had a gentleman’s agreement. They wouldn’t oppose him on anything he wanted to do and in return he wouldn’t veto their appropriations, including earmarks. I’m reminded of the 1942 movie Casablanca:

Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds?
Captain Renault: I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
[a croupier hands Renault a pile of money]
Croupier: Your winnings, sir.
Captain Renault: [sotto voce] Oh, thank you very much.
Captain Renault: Everybody out at once!