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.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs