Bush's Lame Duck State of the Union Address

The Center for American Progress's Progress Report is written by by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna, Matt Corley, and Ali Frick.


Tonight, President Bush will deliver his seventh and final State of the Union address. "Bush faces a steep challenge in persuading Americans to heed his words on the war, economic policy or any other issue, according to administration officials, lawmakers and outside observers," notes the Washington Post today. In fact, Bush's State of the Union (SOTU) speech will "skip bold proposals in favor of ones the country has heard before, a modest approach for a White House that prides itself on big ideas." Attempting to shift blame for Bush's inaction to Congress, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said, "It's just not realistic," baselessly labeling the 110th Congress the "do-nothing Congress." "American people are looking for a new direction and leadership from Washington," noted Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL). "But what will the American people hear from the President during his State of the Union address? In the words of the White House: 'no new ideas.' The time has come to trade no ideas for new ideas; lethargy for leadership.'" (See the top 99 failures of the Bush administration here).


Failed domestic policies:Examining Bush's past SOTU addresses reveals a host of failed proposals. "I hope you will join me to pay down $2 trillion in debt," Bush asked Congress in 2001. But under Bush, the debt will top $10 trillion by Jan. 2009. Bush vowed to help Katrina victims in his 2006 address, but notoriously did not even mention Katrina in his 2007 SOTU. In 2005, he called for the privatization of Social Security, an unpopular plan that also eventually failed. In 2007, Bush called for a "serious, civil, and conclusive debate" on comprehensive immigration reform but was unable to muster support from his conservative base to pass immigration legislation.


Failing foreign policies:Currently, 28 percent approve of the way Bush is handing Iraq, but Bush will press that "more time is needed for the Iraqi government to reach a political settlement" and be responsible for security. Bush has been using the SOTU to tout false promises on Iraq for years. In 2004, he claimed that Iraqis were assuming more responsibility for security "month by month." Now Iraqi officials say they can't defend Iraq until 2018. "And our plan will help the Iraqi government take back its capital and make good on its commitments," Bush said in 2007, referring to political benchmarks. Today, the Iraqi government has met only three of 18 benchmarks. Furthermore, the unpopular President will also use tonight to "ask voters to trust him with more surveillance authority." Bush's Middle East peace push, the "initiative that has the most potential upside in terms of helping him to build a strong legacy," is now "on life support," said columnist Jim Hoagland.


Economic woes: The economy is the number one issue for voters this year, but Bush will enter tonight with only 28 percent of the public approving of his handling of the issue -- compared with 41 percent a year ago. Bush's "speech tonight will press Congress to complete work" on a bipartisan stimulus package. This weekend, Bush said additions to the stimulus would "undermine this important bipartisan agreement." But Bush and his conservative allies blocked important provisions from being considered for the stimulus package, including unemployment benefits and food stamps. Lower-income Americans are "best positioned to spend the money needed to help our economy regain its footing," notes the Center for American Progress. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said he may press for these add-ons this week.

An irrelevant leader: Bush's aides "privately acknowledg[e] that the moments when Bush can be relevant are dwindling fast."

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will skip the speech. "George W. Bush destroyed the Republican Party...He did this on spending, the size of government, war, the ability to prosecute war, immigration and other issues," wrote Peggy Noonan last week. Even getting the public's attention for the speech will be a challenge. "Bush's overall approval rating was 32 percent, his lowest ever," reports the Washington Post. "[S]andwiched between Saturday's Democratic presidential primary in South Carolina and Tuesday's Republican contest in Florida, Bush will face the challenge of making himself heard above the growing din of the 2008 campaign," Reuters notes.
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