Focus on Iraq, economy in State of the Union

Bush urges nation to stand strong
January 28, 2008 7:34:20 PM PST
President Bush, before Congress one last time, urged the nation to stand confident against recession fears and to be patient with the course of the war in Iraq.
  • Click to read the full text of the 2008 State of the Union address

    "We have unfinished business before us, and the American people expect us to get it done," Bush said in his final State of the Union address. He faced a Democratic-led Congress eager for the end of his term next January.

    Bush's approval rating is near an all-time low, and he lacks the clout to push bold ideas. He didn't try. He called on lawmakers to urgently approve a bi-partisan $150 billion plan to stave off recession through tax rebates for families and incentives for businesses to invest in new plants and equipment.

    "As we meet tonight, our economy is undergoing a period of uncertainty," Bush said. "And at kitchen tables across our country there is concern about our economic future. In the long run, Americans can be confident about our economic growth."

    Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the war has been a main topic of Bush's annual addresses to Congress. He said Monday night the buildup of 30,000 U.S. troops and an increase in Iraqi forces "have achieved results few of us could have imagined just one year ago."

    "Some may deny the surge is working," Bush said, "but among the terrorists there is no doubt. Al-Qaida is on the run in Iraq and this enemy will be defeated."

    Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius delivered the Democratic response, urging Bush to work with Congress and help the U.S. regain global standing lost because of the war.

    "The last five years have cost us dearly - in lives lost, in thousands of wounded warriors whose futures may never be the same, in challenges not met here at home because our resources were committed elsewhere," she said. "America's foreign policy has left us with fewer allies and more enemies."

    The lives of 3,940 members of the U.S. military have been lost in the Iraq war.

    Back at home, Bush renewed a proposal to spend $300 million for a "grants for kids" program to help poor children in struggling public schools pay for the cost of attending a private school or a better public school outside their district.

    On two issues that were centerpieces of State of the Union addresses past - Social Security and immigration - Bush passed the buck back to Congress, which had ignored the president's earlier proposals. Contending that entitlement spending is "growing faster than we can afford," he said, "I ask members of Congress to offer your proposals and come up with a bipartisan solution to save these vital programs for our children and grandchildren."

    Bush's speech came hours before Florida's presidential primary election and just eight days before Super Tuesday when voters in more than 20 states go to the polls on the biggest day of the primary campaign.

    Bush's top priority is for Congress to swiftly pass that anti-recession package to provide tax rebate checks to 117 million families and give businesses $50 billion in incentives to invest in new plants and equipment. The program has been endorsed by Democratic and Republican leaders of the House, but the Senate is preparing a package of add-ons. Senate Democrats want more money for senior citizens living off Social Security; they also want an extension of unemployment benefits.

    The president also was to:
    - Announce a White House summit on inner-city children and religious schools.
    - Urge elimination of 150 federal programs he considers wasteful.
    - Announce that his annual meeting with the leaders of Mexico and Canada will be held this year in New Orleans, to show off recovery efforts.
    - Call for an effort to crack down on the pork barrel practices of Congress, saying he will veto any spending bill that does not cut in half the number and cost of congressional pet projects, known as earmarks.

    This year, Bush will promote the U.S.-backed Middle East peace effort and his administration's efforts to fight disease and hunger, and suggest that the United States fight hunger abroad by buying and distributing crops from developing countries rather than relying on U.S. farmers.

    He has eight overseas trips scheduled for 2008 - the most of any year of his presidency.