President Bush sought to revive a sense of national resolve last night with a State of the Union address that readied the country for a showdown with Iraq and demanded another huge tax cut for wealthier Americans. No one watching the somber Mr. Bush's delivery could doubt his determination. But the combination created far too mixed a message. It was hard to reconcile the president who vowed not to "pass along our problems to other Congresses, to other presidents and other generations" with the one whose fiscal policies have helped create gigantic deficits for taxpayers of the future. ...
Though Mr. Bush reserved his passion for the topic of Iraq, he opened with his domestic agenda, an attempt to reassure nervous voters that his concentration on foreign affairs has not made him forget the problems back home. ...
The possibility of war with Iraq overshadowed the president's other themes. Mr. Bush has always done a good job of arguing that Saddam Hussein is dangerous, and he did so again last night. ...
Mr. Bush's personal popularity hinges on his obvious sincerity and determination to show leadership in fearsome times. He has lost none of the daring and conviction that got him where he is today -- a man who enjoys political power matched by few presidents in American history. But as he heads into his own re-election cycle with a war plan at the top of his agenda, the state of the union that the president leads is clearly laced with anxiety and doubt.
President Bush approached his State of the Union address last night facing a critical moment in international affairs, with a war looming in Iraq and another crisis unfolding on the Korean Peninsula. Much of the country -- and the world -- was waiting to hear how he would describe his policy toward dictators Saddam Hussein and Kim Jong Il, members of the "axis of evil" he defined a year ago -- particularly as Mr. Bush had not yet made a concerted effort to explain to Americans and foreign allies why his administration is preparing to launch an invasion of Iraq that will involve painful costs and considerable risks. Yet the State of the Union is never a single-issue affair, and Mr. Bush, after acknowledging the "decisive days that lie ahead," chose to begin with his distinctly less dramatic agenda for the U.S. economy. ...
When at last he turned to the crises abroad, Mr. Bush restated his administration's approach to North Korea without making any clearer a policy that has appeared mostly muddled in recent weeks. On Iraq, where American soldiers could be fighting and dying in a few weeks' time, Mr. Bush chose to focus once again on Saddam Hussein's defiance of the United Nations' demand for disarmament. He reprised, again, Iraq's failure to account for biological and chemical weapons or materials and its attempts to block or deceive U.N. weapons inspectors. But Mr. Bush revealed little of the intelligence the administration says it has on the Iraqi arsenal, and he said little about what the costs of a war might be, or about the commitment the United States would make to a postwar Iraq. His case against Saddam Hussein was strong; but it left him with much still to do in the coming weeks.
The threat of terrorism, which dominated President Bush's State of the Union address last year, is undiminished. Two other overriding concerns are added to it this year: the stubbornly sputtering economy and the threat of war in Iraq.
These are indeed ''great challenges,'' as Bush said, but his speech last night did a better job of portraying the problems than offering solutions.
On Iraq, Bush laid out better than he had previously the argument that Saddam Hussein retains and is hiding specific amounts of chemical and biological agents. And he promised that Secretary of State Colin Powell will present more intelligence to the United Nations Security Council next Wednesday.
More detail is needed to convince a skeptical world that Saddam cannot be contained and that even a successful military attack would not have harmful after-effects. ...
Bush pledged to tackle the nation's great problems ''with focus and clarity and courage.'' He has shown he has the courage to defy an international bully. But, as he said, it will take focus and clarity as well to confront these challenges successfully.
George W. Bush delivered his State of the Union address Tuesday night not to one America, but to two.
One America opposes a war to strip Iraq of its programs to develop and hoard deadly weapons. The other America believes this nation already is in a war not of our choosing, vulnerable to dangerous foes with proven capabilities.
Certainly there were other themes in Bush's speech -- his cheerleading for a plan to stimulate the domestic economy, his proposals to reshape the imperiled Medicare system, his encouragement for Americans to show more compassion.
But his overarching theme, and the one to which his audiences here and abroad listened most intently, came in the second half of his speech: Bush's conviction that the world can deal with Iraq now -- or face the possibly more dangerous consequences of inaction later.
By the time Bush finished speaking, each America had heard something it liked. ...
Bush did not look Tuesday night like a president who particularly cares how his resolve will play in overnight public opinion polls. He did, though, make the possibility of war clear to both Americas -- and to the man in Baghdad who now must decide whether war will come.
Dallas Morning News
Simple. Moral. Persuasive.
President Bush was all three last night in describing the compelling urgency to dismantle Saddam Hussein's regime. Anthrax. Chemical weapons. Butchery. Saddam Hussein uses each as a way to dominate and intimidate his neighborhood and the world.
The president made that point clearly to his countrymen - and to the world. American morality usually does not go down well with European allies. But the president presented the Frances and Germanys a question: If the actions of Saddam Hussein are not evil, then what does evil mean? The answer should be very clear. ...
The night was not about economics, however. It was about keeping the world safe. Everyone knew that. And President Bush made that case. The U.S. and its allies will disarm Saddam Hussein if he doesn't disarm himself. The butcher has played around with us long enough.
Los Angeles Times
There was an initial unreal quality about President Bush's State of the Union address Tuesday evening. The president talked about a prescription drug program, medical liability reform, deep tax cuts portrayed as painless rebates -- all before getting to the topic on everyone's mind: whether the nation is going to war. But when he got to the key issue, he minced no words, attempting to link the threat of Saddam Hussein to the continued safe existence of the United States.
Bush noted the doubts of many Americans -- and citizens of other nations -- that Hussein poses an imminent threat. That changed on 9/11, the president said. Imagine the 19 hijackers "with other weapons, and other plans," armed by Hussein with a vial, canister or crate of biological, chemical or radiological weapons, slipping into this country "to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known." ...
Bush detailed Iraq's use of torture, possession of fearsome weapons and refusal to comply with 12 years of U.N. demands that it disarm. The president said Secretary of State Colin L. Powell next week would give the United Nations Security Council "information and intelligence" about Iraqi weapons programs, the attempts to hide them and links to terrorist groups. ...
Bush built a foundation Tuesday, but he left a lot of hammering, sawing and nailing to be done by Powell.
The president made the emotional case. Now it's up to Powell to present the facts.
(Compiled by United Press International)