President Bush delivered his sixth State of the Union address at a time when he is facing some of the lowest approval ratings of his presidency. With his address, Bush hoped to lift his political standing and give a boost to his Republican allies in Congress who will be facing tough mid-term elections in November. However, the speech was noticeable for its absence of grand proposals to address the many challenges that the country faces. Among his few proposals, Bush called for a 75% reduction of the United States’ dependence on Middle Eastern oil — despite the fact oil from the region accounts for only 11% of the country’s fuel imports. [includes rush transcript]
President Bush touched on a range of topics including what he called the nation’s addiction to foreign oil, skyrocketing health care costs, Hurricane Katrina, troubled U.S. schools, and ballooning budget deficits.
The President offered only small-scale initiatives in his speech, including a commission to examine the impact of baby boomers on social security, a new emphasis on math and science education in schools, and more money for research into alternative energy sources. He did not offer any new plans for rebuilding New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Nor any new ideas on how to control lobbying abuses in Congress — an issue that has recently received national attention with the investigation of powerful lobbyist and major Bush fundraiser, Jack Abramoff.
The President also urged Congress to renew the Patriot Act. He vigorously defended his domestic spying program, and called for making permanent the temporary tax cuts that were passed in the first two years of his administration.
President Bush spent the first part of his State of the Union speech on global issues. He dismissed calls to pull the troops out of Iraq and insisted that the U.S. was wining the so-called war on terror. He also defended his vision of the U.S. as leading the fight to defend freedom and promote democracy around the world. Here is an excerpt from President Bush’s speech last night. The President also defended the war in Iraq, calling it the “central front” on the War on Terror. With the war entering it’s fourth year and more than 2,240 American troops dead and countless number of Iraqis killed- the President rejected any timetable for bringing the troops back from Iraq. Minutes before Bush began his address, Cindy Sheehan–anti-war activist and mother of a fallen solider–was arrested by Capitol police for wearing an anti-war shirt in the gallery. Cindy had been invited to hear the President’s speech by California representative Lynn Woolsey, who has called for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: This is an excerpt of President Bush’s State of the Union address last night.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: No one can deny the success of freedom, but some men rage and fight against it. And one of the main sources of reaction and opposition is radical Islam, the perversion by a few of a noble faith into an ideology of terror and death. Terrorists like bin Laden are serious about mass murder, and all of us must take their declared intentions seriously. They seek to impose a heartless system of totalitarian control throughout the Middle East and arm themselves with weapons of mass murder.
Their aim is to seize power in Iraq and use it as a safe haven to launch attacks against America and the world. Lacking the military strength to challenge us directly, the terrorists have chosen the weapon of fear. When they murder children at a school in Beslan or blow up commuters in London or behead a bound captive, the terrorists hope these horrors will break our will, allowing the violent to inherit the Earth. But they have miscalculated. We love our freedom, and we will fight to keep it.
AMY GOODMAN: President Bush also defended the war in Iraq, calling it the central front in the war on terror. With the war entering its fourth year and more than 2,240 American troops dead and countless number of Iraqis killed, the President rejected any timetable for bringing the troops home from Iraq. Minutes before the President began his address, anti-war activist and mother of fallen soldier, Cindy Sheehan, was arrested by Capitol police for wearing an anti-war t-shirt in the gallery. Cindy had been invited to hear the President’s speech by California congress member Lynn Woolsey, who has called for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: We have killed or captured many of their leaders; and for the others, their day will come. We remain on the offensive in Afghanistan, where a fine president and a national assembly are fighting terror while building the institutions of a new democracy. We’re on the offensive in Iraq, with a clear plan for victory. First, we’re helping Iraqis build an inclusive government, so that old resentments will be eased and the insurgency will be marginalized.
Second, we’re continuing reconstruction efforts and helping the Iraqi government to fight corruption and build a modern economy, so all Iraqis can experience the benefits of freedom. And third, we’re striking terrorist targets while we train Iraqi forces that are increasingly capable of defeating the enemy. Iraqis are showing their courage every day, and we are proud to be their allies in the cause of freedom.
Our work in Iraq is difficult because our enemy is brutal. But that brutality has not stopped the dramatic progress of a new democracy. In less than three years, the nation has gone from dictatorship to liberation, to sovereignty, to a constitution, to national elections. At the same time, our coalition has been relentless in shutting off terrorist infiltration, clearing out insurgent strongholds, and turning over territory to Iraqi security forces. I am confident in our plan for victory; I am confident in the will of the Iraqi people; I am confident in the skill and spirit of our military. Fellow citizens, we are in this fight to win, and we are winning.
AMY GOODMAN: Bush repeated his belief that U.S. plays a vital role in spreading democracy around the world.
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Our offensive against terror involves more than military action. Ultimately, the only way to defeat the terrorists is to defeat their dark vision of hatred and fear, by offering the hopeful alternative of political freedom and peaceful change. So the United States of America supports democratic reform across the broader Middle East. Elections are vital, but they are only the beginning. Raising up a democracy requires the rule of law and protection of minorities and strong, accountable institutions that last longer than a single vote.
The great people of Egypt have voted in a multi-party presidential election, and now their government should open paths of peaceful opposition that will reduce the appeal of radicalism. The Palestinian people have voted in elections. And now the leaders of Hamas must recognize Israel, disarm, reject terrorism, and work for lasting peace. Saudi Arabia has taken the first steps of reform. Now, it can offer its people a better future by pressing forward with those efforts. Democracies in the Middle East will not look like our own, because they will reflect the traditions of their own citizens. Yet liberty is the future of every nation in the Middle East, because liberty is the right and hope of all humanity.
The same is true of Iran, a nation now held hostage by a small clerical elite that is isolating and repressing its people. The regime in that country sponsors terrorists in the Palestinian territories and in Lebanon, and that must come to an end. The Iranian government is defying the world with its nuclear ambitions, and the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons. America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats.
Tonight, let me speak directly to the citizens of Iran: America respects you, and we respect your country. We respect your right to choose your own future and win your own freedom. And our nation hopes one day to be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran.
AMY GOODMAN: President Bush delivering last night’s State of the Union address. To discuss his speech, we’re joined by Andres Izarra. He’s President of TeleSUR, the two-month-old multinational satellite network launched by Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela. Prior to that, he was Venezuela’s Minister of Communications and Information under President Chavez. We’re also joined by Alain Gresh. He is Chief Editor of France’s Le Monde Diplomatique, President of the Association of French Journalists, specializing in Morocco and the Middle East, and author of a number of books on the Middle East. We are also joined by Abdul Bari Atwan. He is Editor-in-Chief at Al-Quds Al Arabi, a leading newspaper in the Middle East since 1989, also author of the new book, Secret History of al Qa’ida. We welcome them all to Democracy Now! We’ll go to break. When we come back, we’ll talk about the President’s address. We’ll talk about the invasion and occupation of Iraq.