Democrats hopeful despite president's lack of progress
We are happy to note that this is the first time that a State of the Union address has been presided over by a female, and that it was President Bush's first time speaking defensively, to a Democratic audience and an angered nation. He spoke on the issues of health care, energy, entitlement programs, the federal budget and, naturally, foreign policy. On this seventh State of the Union, he outlined several worthy initiatives, which sadly mirrored previous unfulfilled promises. However, he spent a great deal of time justifying his foreign policy, initiating no significant policy reform.
On health care, Bush reinforced standard Republican arguments, stating that, "We must remember that the best health care decisions are (not made) by the government." This contrasts sharply with the Democratic ideal of universal health care. Democrats feel, quite simply, that the complex federal bureaucracy of Medicare and Medicaid must be streamlined. Bush's plans merely support those American citizens who already can afford health care, not those who need help getting it.
Bush's energy policy called for drastic cuts in fuel emissions, but resembled previous State of the Union statements, most of which he has failed to implement. He stressed the need for alternative fuel and energy sources and called for a 20 percent reduction of emissions. However, his policy record has left energy efficiency standards behind those of other foreign nations. Democrats remain hopeful, though, that Bush will support these initiatives when they are passed into law.
On the Iraq war, Bush emphasized his vastly unpopular troop surge. He attempted to legitimize this policy by stating that "America must not fail in Iraq, because you understand that the consequence of failure would be grievous and far-reaching." However, Democrats feel that this policy is counterintuitive and will not accomplish anything other than a higher American death toll: "Escalating our military involvement in Iraq will not reverse these negative effects, it will only add to them," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Democrats have voiced opposing measures ranging from complete withdrawal to a timeline for redeployment.
Bush's speech was greeted with everything from applause to claims of "foreign military adventurism." He has reiterated previous promises and initiatives, accomplishing little change. Democratic senators and representatives, though, remain optimistic that the president will be willing and able to cooperate with the new mandate of the American people.
- Samuel Huneke and Julia Barnard are co-presidents of Lawrence High School's Young Democrats.
Rousing the nation during an unpopular war proves difficult
On Jan. 23, President Bush presented his State of the Union address to a Democrat-controlled Congress, and for the first time ever, a woman Speaker of the House. Bush presented a heart-warming introduction for Nancy Pelosi that mentioned her father, Thomas D'Alesandro Jr., and how he must be extremely proud. Republicans and Democrats alike enjoyed the well-presented introduction.
Bush first evaluated the economy, which has done strikingly well during the past year. He mentioned that the inflation rate remained low and that the country is heading into its 41st month of uninterrupted job growth. The Dow Jones saw three record-setting days even during a time of a war and a heated illegal immigration debate.
Bush speaks like a fiscal conservative but doesn't act like one. The Republican Party's ability to restrain spending has been shamed. Bush has exercised his veto power only once and has consistently proposed deficit-ridden budgets. He did at least propose a plan that would eliminate the national deficit in five years.
The president also touched on his health care proposal that would provide tax deductions for people not covered by employer health insurance. This proposal is a great strategy in that it doesn't put more regulations on the market or provide government assistance. It simply reduces taxes, thus alleviating the burden of medical bills.
He also presented an excellent immigration policy that doubles border security and promotes a temporary worker program. Bush stated that the program would allow foreigners to work legally temporarily inside the nation, which reduces the need for agents to stop illegal immigration, therefore allowing agents to focus on other pressing issues.
Finally, Bush arrived at the much-anticipated topic of the night: the Iraq War. The war has been the sole destroyer of Bush's approval ratings because he has communicated poorly to the American people about why our nation initiated the war. In his speech, Bush began by mentioning terrorists and Sept. 11 and linking them to the war. He then mentioned that we are at war because the Middle East is in dire need of democracy. Both of these reasons, at different points, have been the thesis of the war, but the American people need a clear message.
Bush said that if we left now, extremists funded by neighboring nations would overtake the Iraqi government. The president was completely honest in this sense, but what he failed to mention is that if we pulled out now we would lose the much-deserved respect of other nations. Therefore, Bush's plan to continue the war and increase troops is in the best interest of the nation.
Americans must realize that this war is not a Republican idea, but rather the idea of a president who acts internationally without the consent of the United Nations or the electorate back home. The president was honest in his State of the Union address and has become a much-improved public speaker, but it is hard to rouse the nation during an unpopular war.
- Dan Bentley is president of Lawrence High School's Young Republicans.