State of Union address signals beginning of end of Bush
President Bush has used his State of the Union address to ask for rapid economic stimulus and a continuing effort in Iraq.
PRESIDENT Bush addressed major issues in his final State of the Union address, but only as nostalgic references to a laundry list of things he had said before, including items to be resurrected after Bush leaves the White House. The only positive measure that has bipartisan support for quick action is a short-term economic stimulus package aimed at dealing with the threat of recession.
Such issues as Social Security, immigration reform and the war in Iraq will be on the table of the next president and Congress. Bush's speech was sandwiched between more relevant and newsworthy events -- Sen. Ted Kennedy's endorsement of Barack Obama and yesterday's primary elections in Florida.
The president called for prompt passage of a fiscal stimulus package, and the House followed the next day by overwhelmingly approving $146 billion worth of tax rebates and assistance to businesses. He asked that lawmakers not "load up the bill" with other assistance that "would delay or derail it," but the Senate appears to favor a more expensive bill that Bush would be foolish to veto.
Bush did promise vetoes of half the pet projects attached to bills as "earmarks" that sometimes are inserted without full congressional approval. However, he declined to denounce the pork when Republicans had control of Congress and the most infamous earmark was the attempt by Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, to spend $223 million on a "bridge to nowhere," linking a small Alaska town to a remote island. Embarrassment led to the proposal's withdrawal, but Congress found a more traditional way to pay for the bridge.
Hawaii's congressional delegation was irritated by Bush's attack on earmarks, which have been used for various purposes in the islands. Sen. Daniel Inouye pointed out that an earmark was used to create the East-West Center, and he has attached $183 million to the 2008 defense appropriations bill.
"One should not take anything personally," Inouye told the Star-Bulletin's Richard Borreca, "but I have this reputation for putting in earmarks, but I can justify every one."
Bush told of progress in Iraq and said 20,000 troops will be leaving the war zone in coming months. He avoided giving any timetable for further withdrawal, and Gen. Benjamin Mixon, commander of the 25th Infantry Division, told KITV that about 5,000 Schofield Barracks soldiers will be deployed this year to Iraq for the second time in little more than a year.
The war in Iraq will hover over the Bush presidency through the remainder of his term, as presidential candidates debate the issue. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., takes pride in his early support of the surge, other Republicans echo Bush's refusal to withdraw short of a defined victory while Obama and Sen. Hillary Clinton call for a prudent withdrawal.