News

Bush Prepares for State of the Union Address

Multimedia

Audio

President George Bush is expected to unveil his foreign and domestic policy initiatives for his second term when he delivers the State of the Union Address to Congress and the American people next Wednesday.

Unlike the president's inaugural address, which focused on the broad theme of expanding democracy around the world, the State of the Union Address is usually a much more detailed set of policy proposals touching on a range of issues.

The address stems from a requirement in the U.S. Constitution that the president shall, from time to time, give the Congress information on the State of the Union.

University of Virginia political expert Larry Sabato says the State of the Union Address usually offers a better indication of where the president wants to take the country during the next few years.

"The Inaugural Address is always poetry, or at least attempted poetry," he says. "The State of the Union Address is the prose of a presidency. It has the details, what a president is really going to push for and a lot of hints are present in the State of the Union address that you never get in an Inaugural address."

The president's inaugural address generated a lot of comment overseas and American University presidential historian Allan Lichtman predicts Mr. Bush's State of the Union Address will also draw intense international interest.

"And the world is going to be listening very carefully to exactly how he translates his visions of democracy into a concrete foreign policy," he said. "This is going to be one of the most important state of the union addresses in recent history."

Although the president will deal with both foreign and domestic policy in his speech, it is expected he will spend a lot of time making his case for reforming the government pension system known as Social Security.

Mr. Bush and many of his Republican supporters contend that the financial viability of Social Security is fast approaching a crisis as millions of post-war baby boom workers retire over the next several years.

"So therefore, now is the time to act," the president said. "Social Security has been an issue that has made people nervous. I understand that. I mean, people felt that it was the 'third rail' of American politics. That means if you touch it, it will be political death. I have said to the American people that our job is to confront issues and not pass them on."

Many Democrats take issue with the notion that Social Security is approaching a crisis. They oppose the president's plan to revamp Social Security, especially his proposal to allow younger workers to set up private investment accounts to boost their earnings.

Public opinion polls show Social Security remains among the most popular government programs and that a majority of the public is skeptical about the president's reform plan.

University of Virginia expert Larry Sabato says the president will need help from a number of Democrats to pass his reform plan in the Congress.

"I would say that at best, being generous, the Social Security plan of President Bush has perhaps a 50-50 chance of passage," he says. "And believe me, I am being generous. Unless there is serious movement, not just in the Congress but among the American public, this is likely to be a major setback for President Bush."

But other analysts point out that the president was able to win passage of tax cuts in his first term despite Democratic opposition and they expect him to make a vigorous public effort on Social Security reform as well.

Henry Nau is a political science professor at George Washington University in Washington. He was a recent guest on VOA's Encounter program.

"And this idea is to give people a small share in the management of their own resources for their retirement in the future," he said. "Social Security is still going to be there to take care of people who either make mistakes or cannot earn enough to provide for their retirement. But this part of developing a society of self-governing people, this is part of the Jeffersonian vision, which I think animates President Bush."

Democrats will give an official response to the president's State of the Union immediately following his speech. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada says his party has different priorities as Mr. Bush's second term gets under way.

"We have 45 million Americans with no health care," he said. "We have millions of others who are under-insured. This is the America that we live in today, a country whose founding promise is slipping further and further away from reality for too many American families."

Many experts agree the president should use his political leverage to push his proposals through Congress as quickly as possible.

Patrick Basham monitors the U.S. political scene for the Cato Institute in Washington. He recently spoke with VOA TV.

"Traditionally, historically, a president re-elected has, maybe at the outside, two years of a second term to really be seen as still the undisputed leader of the country politically," he said. "After two years, his power begins to fade away quite quickly and quite considerably and I think this president recognizes that."

Following the State of the Union Address, President Bush is scheduled to visit several cities around the country to push his Social Security plan in an effort to build public support.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs