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.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkey Islamists

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora