Archive for Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Challenges ahead

As his presidency enters its final phase, President Bush has a good grasp of the major issues facing the nation, but little time and few bold plans to tackle those issues.

January 30, 2008


The United States faces many challenges, too many challenges, perhaps, to reasonably expect them to be solved in the next year.

In his last State of the Union address Monday night, President Bush did a good job of identifying those challenges. He outlined actions to address some issues and invited members of Congress to come up with more solutions. As Americans would expect, however, Bush's speech included no bold new initiatives for the last year of his presidency.

Bush seemed confident and comfortable in front of the microphone even cracking a joke about where Americans who have said they are willing to pay higher taxes could send their checks. He acknowledged a downturn in the nation's economy and urged Congress to approve a $150 billion plan that would offer tax rebates to families and incentives to businesses.

He came down hard on Congress for attaching "earmarks" for pet projects onto unrelated legislation. Although news reports indicated Bush has signed spending bills that included about 55,000 earmarks totaling more than $100 billion in the last seven years, the president drew a line in the sand Monday night and issued an executive order on Tuesday telling federal agencies to ignore earmarks not explicitly enacted into law.

Having earlier had his proposals for Social Security and immigration reform rejected by Congress, Bush simply challenged lawmakers to come up with plans of their own on these important topics. He also urged them to give U.S. military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan the support they need to sustain progress brought about by last year's troop surge.

Among his most concrete proposals was one to allow service members to transfer unused GI education benefits to their spouses or children. It hardly classifies as bold, but it is likely to be popular and passed into law.

Kansans took special interest in this year's State of the Union speech because of Gov. Kathleen Sebelius' selection to provide the official Democratic response to the address. Although the formality of the occasion left Sebelius looking somewhat stiff and nervous, she delivered a well-crafted message that focused on working across party lines to get America back on track. She directly addressed Bush on several occasions asking him to work with the Democratic majority in Congress and telling him "it's time to get to work."

Her response projected a Midwestern practicality that accurately reflected Americans' frustration with a government dominated by political agendas. Her call for change seemed an apt prelude to her endorsement on Tuesday of Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Few presidents tackle major initiatives in the final year of their term. Bush did a good job Tuesday of outlining the key issues facing America, but he, and the rest of the nation, know that many of those issues still will be on the agenda when the next president arrives in the White House.


Richard Heckler 10 years, 4 months ago

After Promised Withdrawals, U.S. Occupation of Iraq Could Be Larger Than Before "Surge" The Bush administration has acknowledged it may not order the return of any U.S. troops from Iraq beyond those scheduled for this summer. According to the New York Times, White House officials say when President Bush leaves office the U.S. occupation in Iraq may even be larger in size than it was right before the so-called troop surge one year ago. Up to 8,000 more troops would remain if "support forces" don't withdraw with the 20,000 soldiers Bush said last September he would bring home. In Monday's State of the Union address, Bush mentioned the 20,000 troops but did not announce any new withdrawals.

Richard Heckler 10 years, 4 months ago

Bush Asserts Right to Ignore Law Barring Funds for Permanent U.S. Bases in Iraq

The news comes as President Bush has declared he has the right to bypass a new law that prohibits the use of taxpayer money to establish permanent U.S. bases in Iraq. The ban was passed as part of the new National Defense Authorization Act. Hours after signing the bill Monday, Bush issued a signing statement asserting his right to ignore the restriction that bars federal funding "to establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing" of U.S. forces or "to exercise United States control of the oil resources of Iraq." Bush's signing statement also asserted his right to ignore a measure that boosts protection for whistleblowers employed by companies with government contracts. And the statement also objects to the creation of an independent commission on contracting fraud and waste in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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