Angry, skeptical Americans unimpressed with State of the Union speech

Americans reacted with skepticism and anger at President Bush’s fifth State of the Union address Tuesday night, reflecting a national mood that reflects serious reservations about the
controversial war in Iraq, revelations about the administration’s
secret domestic spying program, and missteps following Hurricane

At an Uptown neighborhood bar in New Orleans, both Republicans and
Democrats paused to watch with at least one common hope: Rebuilding the
Gulf Coast will be a top issue for the federal government.

neither Tom Short, 75, a Republican and a Korean War veteran, nor
attorney Todd Hebert, 38, a Democrat, found much to cheer about in
Bush’s address.

After Bush mentioned the Gulf Coast in one or two
sentences deep into his speech, Short exclaimed, “Did I miss something?
I think that’s a crying shame.”

Hebert was just as dismayed.
Throughout the speech, he had been looking at his watch to see how long
it would take Bush to mention the wrecked area.

“We are some of
the most devastated people in a country right now and we’re really
feeling left behind. And that speech did nothing to make us not feel
left behind.”

In Souwest Ohio, the president’s
description of the economy as “healthy, and vigorous, and growing”
didn’t sit well with one auto worker, where the
financial troubles of General Motors Corp. and parts supplier Delphi
Corp. have been keenly felt.

“As an auto worker, no, it’s not
going OK, because we’re losing a lot of jobs,” said 49-year-old Dave
Shores as Bush’s speech competed with classic rock and the crack of
pool balls at the Upper Deck Tavern in this Dayton suburb.

jeans and black leather jackets are the fashion of choice at a modest
bar in Moraine, which has NASCAR posters on its walls, drifting cigarette smoke
and sits in the shadow of a GM plant that cranks out SUVs.

is a union member and registered Democrat who has worked for 30 years
at auto parts supplier Delphi, which filed for bankruptcy last year. He
said his plant employed 4,000 people a few years ago, but now has just

“Can I blame that on George Bush? No, not all of it,” he
said, before noting that Bush’s policies have made it easier for
American companies to move jobs overseas.

“George Bush has helped open those gates to let them go,” Shores said.

At a private home tucked in a quiet neighborhood in
central Orange County, California, about two dozen people gathered to watch over
tacos and potato chips.

Julie Carlson, 29-year-old social worker,
said she felt “negative” about the overall state of the nation. She
said her biggest concern was bringing home U.S. troops from Iraq and
had grown more uneasy with the conflict as time passed.

“I don’t
understand the true reasons for why we’re there and I feel like we were
mislead. There doesn’t seem to be any rational,” said Carlson, a

Carlson also said she was concerned about health care
and Medicare reform because she works primarily with senior citizens.
“There seems to be every week something that comes up, something I
don’t agree with or something that disheartens me,” she said.

In Richmond, VA, Bush did nothing to calm the fears of Anne Jowaisas, a
38-year-old nanny who identified herself as an independent and voted
for John Kerry in 2004.

“In terms of his speech, it was a good
speech and he delivered it pretty strongly,” said Jowaisas. “But I had
a lot of skepticism what he had to say.”

She said that Bush’s
plan to reduce the deficit by 2009 by cutting programs raised plenty of
questions, asking, “how is all this going to balance out?”

said that despite the president’s low approval ratings, the country “is
going in a Bush direction” and believes the religious right has too
much influence in Washington, D.C.

“It’s not a democracy anymore. It’s special interest groups,” she said.

As a retired accountant and a World War II veteran, Joe
Benavidez of Albuquerque, NM, has two big worries on his mind: the national budget and the
war in Iraq.

“The nation is going broke. We get into debt every
day with this war,” said Benavidez, 84. “Veterans are not going to get
what they want or what they need. They’re going to cut veteran
benefits. They’re going to cut welfare, lots of things.”

When it
came to Bush talking about reducing the deficit by 2009, Benavidez gave
a slight chuckle. He said he’s heard that promise before by past
presidents with no results.

“He wants to cut taxes and do good on
the deficit? How do you do that? He’ll cut a lot of programs — programs
people need. Talk is cheap,” he said.

In St. Louis, MO, Diana Jenkins watched the speech in a downtown bar and wasn’t impressed.

“The man is a crook,” she said. “He belongs in jail, not the White House.”