Bush Vows to Defeat Terror, Warns of Terrorists at Large
By Amy Goldstein and Mike Allen
The Washington Post
President Bush warned Congress and the nation Tuesday night that the country will long remain vulnerable to terrorism, as he pledged to devote the second year of his presidency to the twin goals of combating the recession at home and enemies abroad.
In his first State of the Union address, Bush laid out a justification for a longer and broader war against terrorism that would expand into a campaign to instill education and democratic values in the Islamic world.
The president portrayed the threat in stark terms, disclosing that American forces in Afghanistan have found diagrams of U.S. nuclear power plants and that “tens of thousands of trained terrorists are still at large.” He said that hostile nations, including North Korea, Iraq and Iran, represent “an axis of evil” and is attempting to make nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.
Seeking support for the largest increase in defense spending in two decades, which he will request in the budget the White House is to release in four days, Bush said “The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.”
Bush also used the 48-minute prime-time address to outline his strategy for prodding the United States back to prosperity. He said he would strive to create new opportunities for work, cushion the impact of unemployment, and foster a new ethic of volunteerism within communities across the country.
“As we gather tonight, our nation is at war, our economic is in recession and the civilized world faces unprecedented dangers,” Bush said in a confident, but subdued tone that characterized much of his speech. “Yet the state of our union has never been stronger.”
The speech, delivered under extraordinary security in the ornate House chamber, essentially marked the opening of a third chapter in Bush’s young presidency -- a chapter in which he will seek to leverage the surge of public support for his performance since the Sept. 11 attacks into an enlarged war on terrorism and a string of domestic accomplishments.
Bush listed an array of domestic objectives the White House hopes to attain this year. They include expanded unemployment benefits, improved preschool and teacher training programs, greater protection of pensions and a list of health care proposals-ranging from patients’ rights to prescription drug benefits to tax credits for people without insurance or jobs.
Sounding mindful of the divisive politics that often typify election years, the president exhorted Congress to embrace his domestic agenda with “the same spirit of cooperation we have applied to our war on terrorism.” For their part, Democrats Tuesday night also struck a collaborative tone, as House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., said in his party’s official response that lawmakers “need to put partisanship aside and work together to solve the problems that face us.”
The president also asked ordinary people to adopt the same kind of cooperativeness in their own lives and their neighborhoods.