Posted 1:55pm January 26
by Jane Black
U-WIRE Washington Bureau
In his election year State of the Union address, President George W. Bush tried to convince Americans of his successes over the past three years in the war on terror and the economy, while planting seeds for his own re-election campaign in 2004.
Bush spent the majority of his approximate 50-minute speech talking about the U.S. role in the war on terrorism. He painted a picture of a liberated Iraq, working with the U.S. towards their own bill of rights and a new constitution. He spoke of the children in Afghanistan that are now back in school and the new rights granted to Afghani women. Bush citied ideas for his “forward strategy” of freedom in the Middle East such as providing uncensored news services across the Middle East region. He boasted facts such as two-thirds of the known al Qaeda leaders being imprisoned.
While peoples of the Middle East have been granted freedom and repair in the last year, many were critical of Bush’s failure to mention many of the grave problems that still exist in the region and the loss of lives to civilians and U.S. troops overseas.
“He [Bush] made only briefest reference to the causalities and the fact that 500 Americans have been killed. We never heard anything about the weapons of mass destruction that a year ago Bush confidently said Saddam had. A lot of reasoning behind his war policies has proven to be false. He passively admitted that his rationalization for war has not proven to be true,” said Steven Roberts, former New York Times writer and expert on American government.
In the Democratic response to Bush’s speech, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California was also critical of Bush’s omission of grave problems for the United States, pointing out the U.S. needed more support from foreign allies.
Bush applauded the U.S. economy as being strong, citing that home-ownership rates are the highest ever, taxes were cut for small businesses, and that the death tax is close to being phased out. Bush attributed these successes to tax breaks, which allowed Americans to re-invest their money into the economy.
However, democrats were quick to point out that these tax breaks benefited the wealthiest Americans and that Bush exaggerated the number of new jobs created. Sen. John Kerry explained to voters in Concord, NH on Wednesday that only 1,000 jobs were created last month, a minute portion of the administration’s goal of 250,000 new jobs.
While the Democratic candidates were largely critical of Bush’s speech, he introduced proposals that are traditionally supported by Democrats. Many proposals were for improving education for young adults with programs such as “Jobs for the 21st Century,” to make students stronger in science and math. He also proposed a $300 million “Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative” to help newly released prisoners re-enter the work force and $23 million for schools that want to use drug testing “as a tool to save children’s lives.”
However, Bush failed to mention how the United States, already billions of dollars in debt, would pay for such initiatives, giving Democrats much room to criticize Bush in the campaign for president.
“Bush clearly is paying no attention to the deficit, which allows democrats to say all he is doing is adding to the burden of future generations,” said Roberts.
Bush ended his speech by re-visiting his conservative values, refuting the need to “defend the sanctity of marriage.”
“This was a campaign document, not a State of the Union,” said Roberts.