Posted 9:22 p.m. Jan. 29
by Marcus Mrowka
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
Before a joint session of Congress Tuesday evening, President Bush in his second State of the Union address made clear that Iraq is a top priority for his administration along with the nation’s ailing economy.
“We are asking [our allies] to join us, and many are doing so,” Bush said. “Yet the course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of others.”
The first portion of President Bush’s speech focused on domestic issues, with a large portion dedicated to boosting American’s faith in the troubled economy.
Bush touted his $674 billion tax cut plan, saying that it would help stimulate the economy in both the long term and short term. Although Bush gave little new information regarding his economic policies, he again reiterated some of its key points including the most controversial of his plans, the elimination of taxes on dividends.
Critics say the plan is biased towards the wealthy and would do little to help the middle-class. Bush also addressed the growing federal deficit by justifying his policies with a supply-side economics argument.
“The best way to address the deficit and move toward a balanced budget is to encourage economic growth, and to show some spending discipline in Washington,” he said. “Federal spending should not rise faster than the paychecks of American families.”
Bush also returned to the notion of “compassionate conservativism,” something he spoke so much of during his campaign, but was overshadowed when the war on terrorism began.
Bush laid out his plans to create more federal funding of charitable work by religious groups, and new restrictions on abortions and cloning as well as funding for hydrogen powered vehicles.
The president outlined his $400 billion plan to restructure Medicare by adding prescription drug coverage for recipients who join managed care. Bush said that the private marketplace would be the best way to fix the problems the system faces.
“We must work towards a system in which all Americans have a good insurance policy, choose their own doctors, and seniors and low-income Americans receive the help they need,” Bush said.
One proposal that shocked many pundits and viewers was Bush’s proposed allotment of $15 billion to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. It is the boldest move yet from an administration that has been criticized for not doing enough to fight the AIDS epidemic.
“In an age of miraculous medicines, no person should have to hear those words. AIDS can be prevented,” Bush said.
Bush also proposed a $450 million mentoring program for children with parents and prison and $600 million for expanded drug treatment for addicts, although he did not go into these proposals at length.
In an effort to gain more support at home and abroad for his campaign against Iraq, the president spent the second portion of his speech addressing the dangers Saddam Hussein poses.
Although Bush gave little new information, he promised to release soon new information from intelligence forces linking Hussein with terrorist regimes and proving that he is a substantial threat to America.
In their rebuttal, Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill held mixed reaction on Bush’s speech. Sen. Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle, D-S.D., said Bush must make a “more compelling case” against Saddam Hussein, The Washington Post reported.
The president’s words could have increasing meaning this weekend as he meets with British Prime Minister Tony Blair to court his country’s support for a possible war. Next week, Secretary of State Colin Powell is expected to release new evidence that supports the Bush administration’s position on the Iraqi situation.
But Tuesday, without outright calling for war, Bush hinted that it could be just weeks away.
“We will consult, but let there be no misunderstanding: If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.”