Accessibility links

Bush Prepares to Deliver State of Union Address

President Bush is putting the finishing touches on his 2005 State of the Union Address.

The State of the Union is the president's big opportunity to lay out his agenda for the coming year.

Unlike his inaugural address, which was more philosophical in tone, the State of the Union will provide details of his plans and policies.

White House Spokesman Scott McClellan describes the difference this way.

"The inaugural focused on the great goals we are working to achieve and the ideals we should always strive for, advancing freedom at home and abroad, and the philosophy behind the president's vision,” said Mr. McClellan. “The State of the Union is a detailed blueprint for achieving the great goals and ideals the President outlined in his inaugural."

The foreign policy portion of the speech will hail the recent elections in Iraq, as well as those held recently in the Palestinian territories and late last year in Afghanistan.

A senior administration official, who spoke to reporters on the condition he would not be identified, said the president will explain why the United States remains so involved in Iraq and what must be done to help that country move forward. He said Mr. Bush will praise the work of U.S. troops in the region, as well as all those - military and civilian - fighting for freedom around the world.

The official said the president will also talk about new opportunities for peace between Palestinians and Israelis and why he is so optimistic about the future. He said Mr. Bush will stress his commitment to diplomacy as the best day to deal with Iran and North Korea. But he made clear the State of the Union will not include a list of countries of evil intent - the nations of long-lasting tyranny mentioned in the inaugural address.

Some Democrats in the U.S. Congress have been urging the president to use the speech to announce a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. But the White House makes clear that will not happen. Spokesman Scott McClellan says Mr. Bush will talk about the importance of standing with the Iraqi people.

“Now is the time to focus on how we can build upon the success of the elections and help the Iraqi people realize a brighter future, one that is built on democracy and freedom and peace and stability,” added Mr. McClellan.

It will be like two speeches in one - half on foreign affairs, and half on domestic policy. The domestic portion will lead the address, with the focus on the president's plans to reform the massive retirement program called Social Security.

This is the part of the speech that is likely to get the most attention in the United States. For Social Security is by far the largest government program of all with a special tax on earnings going to pay benefits to retirees.

Scott McClellan says the president will tell the American people that major changes are needed if Social Security is to serve future generations.

“That will be a very important part of his message to the American people,” he said. “It's time to shine a very clear light on the problems facing Social Security and then to talk about ways we can work together to strengthen it.”

U.S. presidents usually travel outside Washington for a day or two after the State of the Union to build public support for the initiatives included in the annual address. President Bush will be going to five states in all on Thursday and Friday to talk about one issue and one issue only , the fate of Social Security.