Bush urges vic­tory in Iraq, cuts in gas in State of the Union

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Joseph Curl

Pres­i­den­tBushon­Jan.23pleaded with Congress to give his new strat­egy for vic­tory in the strug­gle in Iraq a chance be­cause “Amer­ica must not fail in Iraq.”

De­feat in Iraq, he said, would be “grievou­sand­far-reach­ing”be­cause the fight­ing in Iraq is part of a broad­er­strug­glea­gain­stIs­lam­icex­trem­ists across the Mid­dle East and stretch­ing to the farther reaches of the globe.

He pro­posed wide-rang­ing do­mes­tic goals in his 50-minute State of the Union ad­dress, propos­ing to bal­ance the bud­get with no new taxes over the next five years, slash gaso­linecon­sump­tion­by20per­cent over the next 10 years, dou­ble the Strate­gic Pe­tro­leum Re­serve to 1.5 bil­lion bar­rels of oil over the next 20 years, of­fer tax ben­e­fits for Amer­i­cans who buy their own health in­sur­ance, cre­ate a “tem­po­rary worker pro­gram” as the first step in com­pre­hen­siveim­mi­gra­tionre­form and “re­main a clear voice for free­dom” in Cuba, Be­larus and Burma.

The do­mes­tic goals were rel­a­tively mod­est, but the pres­i­dent was at his most im­pas­sioned in ar­gu­ing that the war in Iraq must not be aban­doned.

Amer­ica faces “a gen­er­a­tional strug­glethatwill­con­tin­ue­lon­gafter youandIhave­turne­dour­du­tiesover to oth­ers,” he said. “That is why it is im­por­tant­towork­to­geth­er­soour­na­tion­canseethis­great­ef­fort­through.

“For all of us in this room, there is no higher re­spon­si­bil­ity than to pro­tect the peo­ple of this coun­try from dan­ger. [. . . ] To win the war on ter­ror, we must take the fight to the en­emy. Both par­ties and both branches should work in close con­sul­ta­tion.”

Democrats,whonow­con­trol­both theHouse­andtheSe­nate,satqui­etly as Repub­li­cans stood in a rau­cous ova­tion­when­thep­res­i­dent­de­clared “noth­ing is more im­por­tant at this mo­ment in our his­tory than for Amer­ica [. . . ] to suc­ceed in Iraq.” Vice Pres­i­dent Dick Cheney of­ten stood to ap­plaud as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi re­mained seated, un­smil­ing.

Mr.Bushavoidedafo­cu­son­ma­jor ini­tia­tives on con­tentious mat­ters that di­vide the two par­ties, as he did in 2005, for ex­am­ple, when he made ma­jor So­cial Se­cu­rity re­form a cen­tral theme of his speech, only to see it fail.

He­fo­cusedin­stead­onDemocrat­friendly is­sues, call­ing on Congress to en­act im­mi­gra­tion re­form this year, set up new health care tax breaksby2009,in­creasethemil­i­tary by nearly 100,000 mem­bers in the next five years, dou­ble the Strate­gic Pe­tro­leum Re­serve by 2027 and cut con­gres­sion­alear­marksin­halfinthe next fis­cal year.

As he did three weeks ago, the pres­i­dent­saidtheon­ly­way­tose­cure the war-torn coun­try is to send in thou­sands of ad­di­tional troops.

“Our mil­i­tary com­man­ders and I have care­fully weighed the op­tions. We dis­cussed ev­ery pos­si­ble approach. In the end, I chose this course of ac­tion be­cause it pro­vides the best chance of suc­cess. Many in this­cham­berun­der­standthatAmer­ica must not fail in Iraq — be­cause you un­der­stand that the con­se­quence­sof­fail­ure­would­be­grievous and far-reach­ing,” he said.

Democrats, many of whom sup­port res­o­lu­tions of op­po­si­tion to the pres­i­dent’s plan, quickly re­peated their op­po­si­tion in the wake of the speech.

“The pres­i­dent took us into this war reck­lessly,” said Sen. James H. Web­bofVir­ginia,who­has­beeni­nof­fice­lessthana­month,whode­liv­ered the Demo­cratic re­sponse. “The ma­jor­ity of the na­tion no longer sup­ports the way this war is be­ing fought; nor does the ma­jor­ity of our mil­i­tary. We need a new di­rec­tion,” in­clud­ing “strong re­gion­ally based diplo­macy” and “a for­mula that will in short or­der al­low our com­bat forces to leave Iraq.”

The pres­i­dent urged Congress to unite in the strug­gle against in­ter­na­tion­al­ter­ror­is­masAmer­i­cans­did in the days af­ter the Septem­ber 11 ter­ror­ist at­tacks.

“We went into this largely united —in­ouras­sump­tion­sandi­nour­con­vic­tions. And what­ever you voted for, you did not vote for fail­ure. Our coun­try is pur­su­ing a new strat­egy in Iraq, and I ask you to give it a chance­towork,”Mr.Bush­said.“And Iasky­outo­sup­por­t­ourtroopsinthe field, and those on their way.”

Mr. Bush ac­knowl­edged that ter­ror­ist­shave­madein­road­sacross­the Mid­dle East and said sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence and in­sur­gents have out­stripped Amer­i­can forces in Iraq.

“This is not the fight we en­tered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in. Ev­ery one of us wishes this war were over and won, yet it would not be like us to leave our prom­ises un­kept, our friends aban­doned, and our own se­cu­rity at risk.”

He said the United States can­not with­draw.

“IfAmer­i­can­forcesstep­back­be­fore Bagh­dad is se­cure, the Iraqi gov­ern­ment­would­beover­run­byex­trem­ists on all sides. [. . . ] For Amer­ica, this is a night­mare sce­nario. On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the out­come of this bat­tle. So let us find our re­solve, and turn events to­ward vic­tory.”

Mr. Bush sought at sev­eral points to soothe harsh par­ti­san feel­ings, open­inghisad­dress­bynot­ingth­eas­cen­dancy of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi,the­first­woman­to­head­ei­ther cham­ber of Congress.

It was “high priv­i­lege and dis­tinct honor,” he said, echo­ing Mrs. Pelosi’swordsin­tro­duc­inghim,tobe the­first­pres­i­den­tev­er­tostartthead­dress by thank­ing “Madame Speaker.” As the gath­ered law­mak­er­sand­of­fi­cials­gavea­s­tandin­go­va­tion, Mr. Bush turned from his lecter­nand­shookMrs.Pelosi’shand.

At that mo­ment, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Ohio Demo­crat, flexed her arms in the boxer’s stance, as Mrs. Pelosi did at her swear­ing-in week.

Af­ter a rare round of bi­par­ti­san ap­plause, Mr. Bush reached out to Democrats,chal­leng­ingth­e­new­ma­jor­i­ty­towork­with­Repub­li­cansto­get things done.

“Congress has changed, but our re­spon­si­bil­i­ties have not,” the pres­i­dent said. “We are not the first to come­here­with­gov­ern­ment­di­vided an­duncer­tain­tyintheair.Like­many be­fore us, we can work through our dif­fer­ences and achieve big things for the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

De­spite grow­ing ran­cor be­tween the two par­ties — Mrs. Pelosi two weeks ago ac­cused the pres­i­dent of swiftly en­act­ing his “surge” plan to pre­vent op­po­nents on Capi­tol Hill fromblock­ingth­es­trat­egy,word­sthe White House la­beled “poi­sonous” — Mr. Bush said that “both par­ties and both branches should work in close con­sul­ta­tion.”

“Our cit­i­zens don’t much care which­side­oftheaislewe­si­ton—as long as we are will­ing to cross that aisle when there is work to be done,” he said.

Stephen Di­nan con­trib­uted to this re­port.

Katie Falkenberg / The Wash­ing­ton Times

Pres­i­dent Bush on Jan. 23

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