Archive for Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Residents not sure Bush can deliver on many promises

January 21, 2004


President George W. Bush gave a "pretty good" State of the Union speech Tuesday night, but actions speak louder than words, Lawrence resident Selmer Torkelson said afterward.

"I've heard so many political speeches at my age that I'm always a bit skeptical," the 75-year-old Lawrence resident said. "What is said and what takes place 30 days down the road are not always the same."

Two other randomly selected Lawrence residents shared a similar reaction. The Rev. Janis Cobbs, a chaplain at the Veterans Affairs Center in Leavenworth, thought many of Bush's ideas sounded good, but details were lacking.

"He has some ambitious goals for the nation," said Cobbs, 50, who also is president of the Lawrence NAACP. "It will be interesting to see if he can carry them out."

Ross Hart, 27, was less impressed with the speech.

"I see the president as having way too much power, and it doesn't matter who the president is," said Hart, a former religious studies student at Kansas University.

Hart, who works as a writer and also volunteers, looked cynically at Bush's comments concerning the No Child Left Behind education program.

"Bush brutally uses his extreme foreign policy power but virtually ignores 12 million children left behind in poverty," Hart said, noting that he got the statistic from the last U.S. Census report.

Torkelson listened with interest as Bush talked about Medicare reforms including medical discount cards, catastrophic health insurance cost deduction accounts and Social Security personal retirement accounts. Such benefits would be awaited with interest, he said.

"What we notice is that as Social Security (benefits) go up, so do Medicare and medical costs," Torkelson said.

Cobbs, who sees firsthand some of the problems that health care costs present to the older population, said anything that made health insurance more affordable was welcome.

Although she applauded Bush's interest in boosting education for children, she opposed his proposal for providing funds to schools that want to institute drug testing. She has two children in grade school.

"I wouldn't want them tested," Cobbs said. "I know my children. I wouldn't want them to be subjected to that."

Torkelson, Cobbs and Hart thought Bush's proposals lacked details on how they would be implemented and wondered how they would be paid for without increasing the nation's deficit.

Torkelson and Cobbs agreed with Bush that more remained to be done to combat terrorism. Bush asked Congress to continue the Patriot Act, which has come under fire by many who think it deprives Americans of too many privacies.

"I have mixed feelings on that," Torkelson said of the Patriot Act. "I think there are going to be times when we are going to have to give up some freedoms."

Hart was highly critical of Bush's foreign policy and the list of successes mentioned in the speech, especially concerning the war with Iraq.

"We never should have created that problem to begin with," Hart said.

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