Bush pushed war, conservation, reform

A politically weakened President Bush implored a skeptical Congress Tuesday night to embrace his unpopular plan to send more U.S. troops to Iraq, saying it represents the best chance in a war America must not lose. “Give it a chance to work,” he said.

Facing a political showdown with Democrats and Republicans alike, Bush was unyielding on Iraq in his annual State of the Union address. He also sought to revive his troubled presidency with proposals to expand health insurance coverage and to slash gasoline consumption by 20 percent in a decade.

Democrats — and even some Republicans — scoffed at his Iraq policy.

“We need a new direction,” said freshman Sen. Jim Webb, picked by the Democrats to deliver their response to Bush. “The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military,” said Webb, a Vietnam veteran opposed to Bush’s invasion of Iraq, in his prepared remarks.

Republican Sen. Norm Coleman of Minnesota, also took issue with Bush. “I can’t tell you what the path to success is, but it’s not what the president has put on the table,” he said.

It was a night of political theater as Bush went before the first Democratic-controlled Congress in a dozen years with his lowest approval ratings in polls.

Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, the first woman to lead the House, sat over Bush’s shoulder, next to Vice President Dick Cheney. Reaching out to the Democrats, Bush opened with a tribute to Pelosi and paused to shake her hand. He also asked for prayers for Sen. Tim Johnson, hospitalized for more than a month after suffering a brain hemorrhage. The speech audience included up to a dozen House and Senate members who have announced they are running for president or are considered possible contenders.

Bush divided his speech between domestic and foreign issues but the war was topic No. 1.

With Congress poised to deliver a stinging rebuke on his troop increase, he made a personal plea to lawmakers.

“I have spoken with many of you in person. I respect you and the arguments you made,” Bush said. “We went into this largely united, in our assumptions and in our convictions. And whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure.”

“Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq and I ask you to give it a chance to work,” Bush said. “And I ask you to support our troops in the field and those on their way.”

He said the Iraq war had changed dramatically with the outbreak of sectarian warfare and reprisals.

“This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in,” the president said. “Every one of us wishes that this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned and our own security at risk.

“Ladies and gentlemen: On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle,” the president said. “So let us find our resolve and turn events toward victory.”

In his address, Bush reached out to Democrats, saying, “Congress has changed but our responsibilities have not. We are not the first to come here with government divided and uncertainty in the air. Like many before us, we can work through our differences and achieve big things for the American people.”

Key Republicans have joined Democrats in drafting resolutions of opposition to the plans he announced two weeks ago to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq. Bush said his approach had the best chance to succeed, but clearly many lawmakers — and overwhelming majority of Americans — disagreed.

“Many in this chamber understand that America must not fail in Iraq because you understand that the consequences of failure would be grievous and far reaching,” the president said. “If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides.”

In such a case, he forecast “an epic battle,” Shiite extremists backed by Iran against Sunni extremists aided by al-Qaida and supporters of Saddam Hussein’s government, leading to violence that could spread across the Middle East. “For America, this is a nightmare scenario,” Bush said.

Unlike the friendly Republican-dominated Senate and House of the past six years, the new Congress has not shied from challenging the president.

“Our citizens don’t care much which side of the aisle we sit on — as long as we are willing to cross that aisle when there is work to be done,” said Bush, who for six years ignored Democrats’ demands to be included in decisions.

He pressed Congress to help find ways to overhaul entitlements such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid before they impose huge problems for future generations.

“Somehow we have not found it in ourselves to act,” he said. “So let us work together and do it now.”

On immigration, too, the president made a plea to lawmakers that he has made before. Members of his own party were the main obstacle to success in that area — a fact Bush acknowledged even as he pressed for a better result now than Capitol Hill is run by Democrats more amenable to his ideas.

“Convictions run deep in this Capitol when it comes to immigration,” he said. “Let us have a serious, civil and conclusive debate.”

Bush said his energy proposals would cut American imports by the equivalent of 75 percent of the oil coming from the Middle East. His prescription, as always, relied primarily on market incentives and technological advances — not government mandates.

“America is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil,” he said. “These technologies will help us become better stewards of the environment — and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change.”

Bush called for changing the tax code to encourage more people not covered by medical insurance to buy a plan, and to discourage others from keeping the most costly health care plans.

Under Bush’s proposal, employer-financed health care benefits would be considered taxable income after a deduction of $15,000 for families and $7,500 for individuals. Those buying their own plan would get the same deductions on their taxes.

The White House said 80 percent of workers with health insurance through their jobs would see a tax cut as a result of the change. But about 20 percent would see a tax increase — those workers whose health insurance cost more than the standard deduction.

“With this reform, more than 100 million men, women and children who are now covered by employer-provided insurance will benefit from lower tax bills,” Bush said. “At the same time, this reform will level the playing field for those who do not get health insurance through their job.”

The administration sought to make Bush’s energy initiatives — in particular a 20 percent cut in gasoline usage by 2017 — an eye-catching centerpiece of his address, the one major element not revealed until hours before the speech. “It is in our vital interest to diversify America’s energy supply, and the way forward is through technology,” Bush said.

The cut would be achieved primarily through a sharp escalation in the amount of ethanol and other alternative fuels that the government mandates must be blended into the fuel supply. The rest would come from raising fuel economy standards for passenger cars, a plan that Bush has proposed in the past but failed to win from Congress.

Acknowledging that some would say such a drastic increase in alternative fuels is unrealistic, the White House argued that the new mandate — which would need approval from Congress — would spur investments in the industry and give technological research a boost.

While setting cutback goals, the president spurned appeals from environmentalists and some major corporations to impose mandatory ceilings on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in hopes of slowing climate change.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press


  1. The South Point

    Toss this numbskull and Cheney into Leavenworth or send them off to the Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity trials. I don’t care which. Either will do fine.

    Just as long as they are out of the White House. I don’t really know what kind of President Pelosi would make, but she can’t be worse than these two. (Hopefully.) These two are completely out in nutcase land. They took the bus to crazytown and what they bought weren’t round-trip tickets.

  2. Ted

    “America is on the verge of technological breakthroughs that will enable us to live our lives less dependent on oil,” “These technologies will help us become better stewards of the environment — and they will help us to confront the serious challenge of global climate change.”

    Reminds me of Hitler hiding in a bunker deluding himself with dreams of salvation from troops and “wonder weapons that he did not posses.

    “See, in my line of work you got to keep repeating things over and over and over again for the truth to sink in, to kind of catapult the propaganda.” —President George W. Bush, Greece, N.Y., May 24, 2005

    This man knows not the difference between truth and propaganda. He is going to produce the same result for this country that he has produced in Iraq: Chaos and mayhem.

    Fire the liar!!!

  3. SEAL

    He has been saying and doing the same damn thing for six years and he will continue to do that for two more years.

    His refusal to alter his course is not because he is stupid or insane or incompetent. He is following the plan they had when they stole the first election and will continue to follow it to the end. That plan is to establish a permanent military presence in the middle of the Middle East which is exactly where Iraq is. It’s the neocon plan to dominate and control the Middle East and its oil.

    There will be no withdrawal of troops as long as Bush is in power. Up til now he has supported the shiite genocide of the sunnis. The difference in this new course is to back off the shiite militias and add more of our troops and allow them to do the job on the sunnis.

    Our military is a much more efficient killing machine. By making the shiite militias back off he gives the appearance of not taking sides. But they know the only way to stop the civil war is for one side to win it and that must be the shiites. That was ordained from the beginning. That is the “war” he has constantly declared we must win. However, they must maintain the illusion of equal enforcement to keep the other sunni dominated nations arond Iraq from jumping in to support the Iraqi sunnis. As long as the shiites are winning there will be no iterference from Iran.

    The plan is working just fine so far. Iran is next. They are preparing for it now. If they engage us in a “real” war with Iran before Bushs’ term is up, the next president, regardless of who it is, will have no option but to follow through with it. That’s the plan.

    All they had to do was allow and participate in the terrorist attack of 9/11 to create the support for their plan.

    The democrats can stop the plan if they have the balls to do it. They know what the plan is. So, this is when we find out if they actually care about this nation.

  4. Teresa

    They’re evil men, without conscience, pure and simple. Liars, cheats. Remove them from office, before America is only a memory.

  5. JimZ

    To enhance what SEAL is saying about controlling the oil, notice the neocons have lately been starting to work in the topic about “protecting the oil” into their speeches? It’s very well orchestrated.

    So, now it’s “safe” to use that as a/the “reason”. I think they’ve finally run out of ideas.

    In our faces…