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History > 2008 > USA > Politics > President George W. Bush (I)




Bush Seeks Surplus

via Medicare Cuts


January 31, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — In his new budget, to be unveiled Monday, President Bush will call for large cuts in the growth of Medicare, far exceeding what he proposed last year, and he will again seek major savings in Medicaid, according to administration officials and budget documents.

Over all, the 2009 budget is likely to be the first $3 trillion spending request by a president.

Health care savings are a crucial part of Mr. Bush’s plan to put the nation on track to achieve a budget surplus by 2012. But before then, the officials said Wednesday, the White House anticipates higher deficits in 2008 and 2009, reflecting the current weakness of the economy and the cost of a stimulus package.

The president’s budget will not seek money for another full year of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pentagon officials said the administration would request $70 billion for the fiscal year that begins on Oct. 1. That would be enough to continue combat operations for several months, until the next president takes office.

Mr. Bush has repeatedly said that the costs of Medicare and Medicaid, which dwarf spending for lawmakers’ pet projects, are unsustainable. The two health programs account for nearly one-fourth of all federal spending, and their combined cost — $627 billion last year — is expected to double in a decade.

Budget documents show that Mr. Bush will propose legislative changes in Medicare to save $6 billion in the next year and $91 billion from 2009 to 2013. In his last budget, by contrast, his legislative proposals would have saved $4 billion in the first year and $65.6 billion over five years.

The president’s budget also takes aim at Medicaid, the insurance program for low-income people. He would pare $1.2 billion from it next year and nearly $14 billion over five years.

Those figures do not include tens of billions of dollars that Mr. Bush wants to save through new regulations. Such rules are not subject to approval by Congress, but could be revised by a future administration.

Congressional Democrats often pronounce Mr. Bush’s budget dead on arrival, and they have no reason to make unpopular cuts in this election year.

But lawmakers say they feel obliged to pass a Medicare bill in the first half of this year, to spare doctors from a 10 percent cut in Medicare fees that would otherwise take effect on July 1. Lawmakers say that bill could easily become a vehicle for other changes in Medicare and Medicaid.

Most of the Medicare savings in the budget would be achieved by reducing the annual update in federal payments to hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, ambulances and home care agencies.

The budget would not touch payments to insurance companies for private Medicare Advantage plans, even though many Democrats and independent experts say those plans are overpaid.

In the next five years, the largest amount of Medicare savings, by far, would come from hospitals: $15 billion from an across-the-board reduction in the annual updates for inpatient care; $25 billion from special payments to hospitals serving large numbers of poor people; and $20 billion from capital payments for the construction of hospital buildings and the purchase of equipment.

In addition, the president’s budget would reduce special Medicare payments to teaching hospitals, including many in the New York area, by $23 billion over the next five years.

To justify prior budget proposals, the White House has often cited the work of an independent federal panel, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. The panel voted this month to recommend that Medicare payments to hospitals be increased about 3 percent in 2009, to reflect the expected increase in the cost of goods and services hospitals use. Under the president’s budget, Medicare payments would not keep pace with those costs in 2009 or any subsequent year.

The advisory panel found that the special Medicare payments to teaching hospitals were excessive, as the White House contends. But it recommended a much more modest cutback than Mr. Bush will propose.

Kenneth E. Raske, president of the Greater New York Hospital Association, said the president’s proposals showed “great insensitivity to teaching hospitals” across the country. The proposals “would undermine our ability to train young doctors at a time when the nation is facing a shortage of doctors,” Mr. Raske said.

Under the president’s budget, Medicare payment rates for nursing homes would be frozen in 2009, and payment rates for home health agencies would be frozen at current levels through 2013.

William A. Dombi, vice president of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, a trade group, said the proposal could affect many of the three million Medicare beneficiaries who receive home health services each year.

“Under the proposal,” Mr. Dombi said, “75 percent to 80 percent of home health agencies would be doomed. They would not be able to meet payroll. They would not be able to operate.”

Within 15 days of sending his budget to Congress, Mr. Bush is supposed to submit legislation to strengthen the financial condition of Medicare and to reduce its reliance on general revenues, which include income taxes. The 2003 Medicare law established special procedures to ensure that Congress would consider such legislation.

House Democrats want to eliminate this requirement, saying it is a Republican device to undermine Medicare’s status as an entitlement.

Bush Seeks Surplus via Medicare Cuts, NYT, 31.1.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/31/washington/31budget.html






Washington Memo

Question of Timing

on Bush’s Push on Earmarks


January 29, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — President Bush has never shown much distaste for Congressional pork.

But in his last year in office, with his party out of power on Capitol Hill, he declared Monday that he had had enough.

In the last seven years he has signed spending bills containing about 55,000 earmarks worth more than $100 billion for projects like a new lane for a local road, a new facade for a town landmark or a weapons contract for a company that happened to be a big donor to an influential lawmaker.

Such projects tucked into the endnotes of complex spending bills at the request of individual lawmakers with almost no oversight have contributed to a mounting pileup of waste and corruption, including sending the lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the former congressman Randy Cunningham, a California Republican, to jail.

In his State of the Union address Monday night, Mr. Bush threatened to veto future spending bills unless Congress cut in half the number of earmarks, which now total more than 10,000 items and nearly $20 billion annually.

What is more, he told federal agencies to ignore any earmarks attached in the endnotes or “reports” appended to spending bills, a practice that makes them immune to amendment or excision in debate on the floor — to the fury of their critics.

The late timing of his tough talk, though, drew mostly gentle derision from those critics.

Mr. Bush was notably silent on the subject until after his fellow Republicans lost control of Congress in the 2006 midterm elections. And, now that his power has waned, his threats are almost certain not to matter.

As lawmakers know, earmarks, which make up less up less than 1 percent of the federal budget, have incalculable political value. Congressional leaders award or withhold them to reward or punish lawmakers. Incumbents like to use federal money to curry favor with donors and constituents.

In fact, Representative Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican who has crusaded against earmarks, said when Republicans ran Congress, “we honed the practice.”

But complaining about earmarks is much easier when your party is not writing the spending bills.

“I worry that earmark reform is something that Congressional minorities will always be the only ones to call for, kind of like a balanced budget,” said Brian M. Riedl, a critic of earmarks at the conservative Heritage Foundation.

Dick Armey, a former leader of the House Republicans who has become a vocal critic of earmarks, said that until the party’s ouster from the majority the Republican speaker and Senate majority leader told the president, in effect, “This pork is our deal.”

With Democrats in charge, Mr. Armey said, “He looks at it now and he says, ‘The speaker and the majority leader are not going to help me on my deal anyway, so I might as well fight with them.’

“You have got a group of people that for the last 12 years have been saying to their members, ‘If you think you are having trouble with your re-election, come to us and we will help you out in the appropriations process,’ ” he added, arguing that lawmakers in both parties had “become addicted” to earmarks.

In practical terms, Congress may be so distracted that it does not send Mr. Bush any spending bills for 2009 — a common occurrence in presidential election years. Or Congressional Democrats may wait for a new president to sign the bills.

“He is probably not going to get the bills to veto,” said Steve Ellis, a spokesman for Taxpayers for Common Sense, which tracks earmarks.

And despite Mr. Bush’s instructions to ignore earmarks not included in the formal text of bills — and thus immune to excision or amendment in floor debate — federal agencies may still choose to spend the money anyway because the agencies will need to deal with the same Congressional spending committees for all their future budget requests, analysts and lawmakers said.

And Congress has an easy loophole: lawmakers might include a single sentence in a bill’s text giving its endnotes or “report” the full force of law, this complying with the president’s requirements without subjecting the earmarks to any additional debate.

In 2006, Democrats, then in the minority, made earmark overhaul a campaign theme. Last year, they passed laws requiring lawmakers for the first time to take public responsibility for the earmarks they added to spending bills. On Tuesday, Representative Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, chairman of the House Democrats’ campaign committee, called Mr. Bush “late to game.”

“When the president and the Republican Congress had the power to address this, they did nothing,” Mr. Van Hollen said.

Since the Democrats took control, however, House Republicans have become the most vocal critics of earmarks. Mr. Bush’s embrace of overhauling earmarks comes as House Republicans are calling on the Democratic leaders to join them in a moratorium on such projects.

The House Republican conference, however, blocked a proposal by its leaders to stop seeking earmarks voluntarily as a way for the party to claim the higher ground. Under a longstanding informal agreement between the parties, the minority party is allowed to distribute to its members about 40 percent of the total federal money spent on earmarks, and Republican House members did not want to give up their share.

“It is unfortunate” that the president move is acting so late, Mr. Flake said, “But there is also the irony of saying, please save us from ourselves, as if we need adult supervision.”

    Question of Timing on Bush’s Push on Earmarks, NYT, 29.1.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/29/washington/29earmark.html






News Analysis

A Defiant Look at What Little Lies Ahead


January 29, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — Making his seventh and final State of the Union address, President Bush proposed a short list of initiatives Monday that more than anything else underscored the White House’s growing realization that his biggest political opponents now are time and an electorate already looking beyond him.

This address lacked the soaring ambitions of Mr. Bush’s previous speeches, though it had its rhetorical flourishes. He invoked the “miracle of America” but for the most part flatly recited familiar ideas — cutting taxes, fighting terrorists, the war in Iraq — rather than bold new ones. Nothing he proposed Monday is likely to redefine how history judges his presidency.

The biggest initiatives of the second Bush term — the remaking of Social Security and the emotionally charged issue of illegal immigration — are now in the category of what the White House calls “unfinished business.” Mr. Bush mentioned them on Monday only to state the obvious: both will remain unfinished on his watch.

So, too, will the war in Iraq, the issue that will define his legacy more than any other, and one for which he pointedly offered no new promises of troop withdrawals beyond those already proposed by the American commander in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus. Mr. Bush said he would instead await the recommendations now being drafted by General Petraeus at his headquarters at the presumptively named Camp Victory in Baghdad.

In contrast to last year’s address to Congress, where he faced skepticism about sending more troops to Iraq, Mr. Bush cited a drop in violence and nascent signs of political reconciliation there. Rather than signaling a more rapid withdrawal, though, the president noted General Petraeus’s warnings that the gains could quickly be reversed.

“We must do the difficult work today,” he said, “so that years from now, people will look back and say that this generation rose to the moment, prevailed in a tough fight and left behind a more hopeful region and a safer America.”

Mr. Bush now has less than a year left in office. But as the White House counselor, Ed Gillespie, noted on Monday, the window for realistically accomplishing much of anything during an election year will close by the time Congress adjourns in the summer and the presidential nominating conventions begin.

This year’s campaign is such that the State of the Union Message — an annual ritual of American governance for more than two centuries — seemed like little more than a brief distraction between Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s endorsement of Senator Barack Obama on Monday afternoon and Florida’s primary vote on Tuesday. One Republican candidate, Senator John McCain, skipped the address to squeeze in a last day of campaigning there.

“Everybody appears to be looking downstream,” Scott Reed, a veteran Republican consultant, said Monday.

What the president did propose in his address was modest, focused more than ever on domestic matters and the growing concern about the economy.

An economic stimulus that has already moved forward; a campaign against “earmarks” for frivolous spending projects; grants for students in failing urban schools; new benefits for veterans and their families — all may be worthy proposals, and some may feasibly be enacted.

Mr. Bush’s aides insisted, again, that he would “sprint to the finish.” Not coincidentally, perhaps, the image conjures Ronald Reagan’s vow in his last State of the Union message. “Let’s make this the best of eight,” Mr. Reagan said 20 years ago. “And that means it’s all out, right to the finish line.”

Mr. Reagan went on in that final year to reach deals with the Democrats involving trade, immigration and welfare, while signing an arms control treaty with the Soviet Union. Mr. Bush’s aides would hardly disparage the comparison, and he also held out hope for a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians by the end of his presidency.

But Mr. Bush’s final address also reflected that of the last two-term president. Bill Clinton, hobbled by impeachment but still far more popular at that point in his presidency than Mr. Bush is now, proposed a buffet of modest, centrist proposals, including cutting taxes for married couples, increasing grants for college and having Medicare pay for prescription drugs (which Mr. Bush’s administration finally accomplished). At the time, Gov. George W. Bush of Texas criticized Mr. Clinton’s “litany of spending programs.”

Both Mr. Reagan and Mr. Clinton delivered their final State of the Union messages with the fate of their vice presidents in mind, promoting legislative agendas that amounted to campaign platforms for their heirs.

Unlike Mr. Reagan and Mr. Clinton, whose vice presidents sought to succeed them, Mr. Bush spoke on Monday with no obvious heir. And while he has pledged to support his party’s eventual nominee, Republican candidates can barely bring themselves to invoke his name on the campaign trail.

Mr. Bush’s approval rating hovers at 29 percent, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll. It has fallen with each State of the Union message since his first, delivered after Sept. 11, 2001, when Al Qaeda had been routed with the Taliban in Afghanistan and 82 percent approved of his handling of the job. Afghanistan, too, appeared to remain unfinished business; Mr. Bush noted the recent decision to send 3,200 Marines to bolster the American-led coalition against a resurgent Taliban.

And though he declared that the state of the union would remain strong, as tradition obliges presidents to do, only 19 percent of Americans think the country is generally on the right track, as low a number as any recorded.

“From expanding opportunity to protecting our country, we have made good progress,” Mr. Bush said, appealing for a bipartisanship that has largely eluded the country during his presidency. “Yet we have unfinished business before us, and the American people expect us to get it done.”

    A Defiant Look at What Little Lies Ahead, NYT, 29.1.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/29/washington/29assess.html






Bush Speech Focuses on War and Taxes


January 29, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — Facing an unstable economy and an unfinished war, President Bush used his final State of the Union address Monday night to call for quick passage of his tax rebate package, patience in Iraq and a modest concluding agenda that includes $300 million in scholarship money for low-income children in struggling schools.

With Senate Democrats already jockeying to amend the stimulus package that the administration negotiated with the House last week, Mr. Bush, in his address, urged lawmakers to resist the temptation to “load up the bill” with other provisions. To do so, he warned, “would delay or derail it, and neither option is acceptable.”

Yet Mr. Bush devoted relatively little of his 53 minute speech to the economy, the issue that is the top concern of voters during this election year. He spent far more time talking about the issue that has been his own primary concern, Iraq.

Mr. Bush made the case that his troop buildup had “achieved results few of us could have imagined just one year ago,” and reminded Americans that in coming months, 20,000 troops will have come home. Yet he avoided any timetable for further withdrawal and, if anything, seemed to be preparing the country for a far longer-term stay in Iraq, warning that a precipitous withdrawal could lead to a backslide in security.

“Members of Congress,” Mr. Bush said, “having come so far and achieved so much, we must not allow this to happen.”

The White House had promised that the speech would look forward, not back. Facing the realities of a final year in office, with little time to win legislation from a Congress controlled by Democrats, Mr. Bush used the address to emphasize his power to block actions that he opposes. He vowed to veto any tax increases or legislative earmarks that were not voted on by the full Congress.

But the speech, interrupted nearly 70 times by applause, was also infused with a sense of summing up, as Mr. Bush opened by remarking that “our country has been tested in ways none of us could imagine” since he delivered his first address to Congress, seven years ago.

“We have faced hard decisions about peace and war, rising competition in the world economy, and the health and welfare of our citizens,” Mr. Bush said. “These issues call for vigorous debate, and I think it’s fair to say we’ve answered that call. Yet history will record that amid our differences, we acted with purpose.”

Democrats responded by saying that Mr. Bush had offered “little more than the status quo,” in the words of the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, and the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California.

Yet the party’s official response was not criticism but a call for unity, delivered by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas. Ms. Sebelius urged the president to build on the bipartisanship of the stimulus package — a sign that with the fall elections just 10 months away, Democrats are aware they must show voters they can work across the aisle.

“There is a chance, Mr. President, in the next 357 days, to get real results and give the American people renewed optimism that their challenges are the top priority,” she said.

Seven years have passed since Mr. Bush arrived in Washington, fresh from the Texas governor’s mansion, with a sweeping domestic agenda and a grand promise to be a “uniter, not a divider.” But with the nation divided over the war, and many Americans already looking past Mr. Bush to the 2008 presidential race, he arrived in the House chamber on Monday night a politician with much less ambitious plans.

Mr. Bush is grayer now than he was then, reflecting the strain of his time in office. And he is realistic, White House aides say, about what he might accomplish in his 51 weeks left.

In one poignant sign that his time is short, Mr. Bush’s twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara, were seated in the first lady’s box. It was the first time they had attended one of their father’s State of the Union addresses.

Looking ahead, on domestic affairs, Mr. Bush called on Congress to reauthorize his signature education bill, No Child Left Behind, and to pass pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. He asked lawmakers to make his tax cuts permanent, and implored them to renew legislation permitting intelligence officials to eavesdrop on the communications of terrorism suspects and to provide legal immunity to phone companies that have helped in the wiretapping efforts.

Yet even as Mr. Bush issued that call, lawmakers were at an impasse over the bill Monday night, as the Senate rejected two measures that would have forced votes on competing proposals — a plan backed by the White House and a short-term effort by Democrats to extend by a month the existing eavesdropping law, which is set to expire on Friday.

And though there is little to no chance that the Democratic Congress will tackle Social Security or illegal immigration, his two major domestic priorities, Mr. Bush could not resist urging them to do so. His counselor, Ed Gillespie, said Mr. Bush saw that as his presidential duty.

“The president understands that nominees on both parties are going to have their own proposals and ideas on these fronts,” Mr. Gillespie said, previewing the speech. “That’s where we are in the cycle of things.”

On foreign affairs, the speech was as notable for what it did not mention as for what it did. Mr. Bush left out any mention of North Korea; he had hoped that by now North Korea would have disclosed all of its nuclear programs, giving the Bush administration a foreign policy achievement. But the North missed the Dec. 31 deadline for disclosure.

On Iran, the third nation, beyond Iraq and North Korea, to make up Mr. Bush’s “axis of evil,” the president repeated an oft-stated message, addressing his words directly to the Iranian people and their leaders. To the leaders, he said, “Come clean about your nuclear intentions and past actions, stop your oppression at home and cease your support for terror abroad.”

On Iraq, Mr. Bush expressed confidence that “Al Qaeda” would be defeated, even though American military officials have emphasized that the Sunni Arab insurgency remains resilient.

Mr. Bush has often said he intended to “sprint to the finish.” Still, it was clear in his speech Monday night that the sprinting would involve relatively small steps. Beyond the scholarship money for low-income children, he offered just a handful of truly new initiatives.

The president promised to use his veto pen to curtail by 50 percent the pet projects lawmakers sometimes insert into spending bills without full Congressional approval.

Mr. Bush called on Congress to pass legislation that allows members of the military to transfer their G.I. Bill education benefits to spouses and children. And he promised to reduce or eliminate 151 government programs that he described as “wasteful or bloated,” to save $18 billion.

But many of the initiatives Mr. Bush announced were not new. He called on Congress to amend the tax code to make private health insurance more affordable, a plan he unveiled in his State of the Union address last year. He urged lawmakers to devote $30 billion over the next five years to combating the global AIDS epidemic, a proposal he announced in the Rose Garden in May. He asked Congress to pass a measure to ban human cloning, recycling a proposal from his 2006 State of the Union address.

One area where Mr. Bush hopes to find bipartisan consensus is in the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, one of his few bipartisan achievements. But even that may be difficult.

“Six years ago,” the president said, “we came together to pass the No Child Left Behind Act, and today no one can deny its results.”

The remark brought applause from Republicans. But as he spoke, his main Democratic partner on the bill, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, did not join in the clapping.

Eric Lichtblau contributed reporting from Washington, and Alissa J. Rubin from Baghdad.

    Bush Speech Focuses on War and Taxes, NYT, 29.1.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/29/us/29bush.html






Text of the Democratic Response


January 29, 2008
The New York Times

Following is the text of the Democratic response given by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas to President Bush’s State of the Union address, as transcribed by the Federal News Service:

Good evening. I’m Kathleen Sebelius, governor of the state of Kansas, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to speak with you tonight. I’m a Democrat, but tonight it really doesn’t matter whether you think of yourself as a Democrat or a Republican or an independent or none of the above.

Instead, the fact you’re tuning in this evening tells me each of you is, above all, an American first. You’re mothers and fathers, grandparents and grandchildren, working people and business owners, Americans all.

And the American people, folks like you and me, are not nearly as divided as our rancorous politics might suggest.

In fact right now, tonight, as the political pundits discuss the president’s speech, chances are they’ll obsess over the reactions of members of Congress: “How many times was the president interrupted by applause? Did Republicans stand? Did the Democrats sit?”

And the rest of us will roll our eyes and think, “What in the world does any of that have to do with me?”

And so I want to take a slight detour from tradition on this State of the Union night. In this time, normally reserved for a partisan response, I hope to offer something more: An American response. A national call to action on behalf of the struggling families in the heartland and across this great country. A wake-up call to Washington, on behalf of a new American majority, that time is running out on our opportunities to meet our challenges and solve our problems.

Our struggling economy requires urgent and immediate action, and then sustained attention. Families can’t pay their bills, they’re losing their jobs, and now are threatened with losing their homes.

We heard last week and again tonight that Congress and the president are acting quickly on a temporary, targeted stimulus package. That’s encouraging, but you and I know that a temporary fix is only the first step toward meeting our challenges and solving our problems.

There’s a chance, Mr. President, in the next 357 days to get real results and give the American people renewed optimism that their challenges are the top priority.

Working together, working hard, committing to results, we can get the job done.

In fact, over the last year, the Democratic majority in Congress has begun to move us in the right direction with bipartisan action to strengthen our national security, raise the minimum wage and reduce the costs of college loans. These are encouraging first steps, but there’s still more to be done.

And so we ask you, Mr. President, will you join us? Let’s get to work.

We know that we’re stronger as a nation when our people have access to the highest quality, most affordable health care; when our businesses can compete in the global marketplace without the burden of rising health care costs here at home.

We know that caring for our children so they have a healthy and better start in life is what grown-ups do. Governors in both parties and a large majority of the Congress are ready right now to provide health care to 10 million American children as a first step in overhauling our health care system.

Join us, Mr. President. Sign the bill and let’s get to work.

Sitting with the first lady tonight was Steve Hewitt, the city manager of Greensburg, Kansas. Many of you remember Greensburg, our town nearly destroyed by a tornado last year. Thanks to Steve’s efforts, and hundreds of others in our state and across the country, Greensburg will recover. Folks rolled up their sleeves and got to work, and local, state and federal governments assisted in the effort.

But more than just recover, the Kansans who live in Greensburg are building green, rebuilding a better community for their children and grandchildren, making shared sacrifices and investments for the next generation.

Greensburg is not alone. You and I stand ready, ready to protect our environment for future generations and stay economically competitive. Mayors have committed their cities to going green; governors have joined together, leading efforts for energy security and independence; and the majority in Congress is ready to tackle the challenge of reducing global warming and creating a new energy future for America.

So we ask you, Mr. President, will you join us? It’s time to get to work.

Here in the heartland, we honor and respect military service. We appreciate the enormous sacrifices made by soldiers and their families.

As governor of Kansas, I’m the commander in chief of our National Guard. Over the past five years, I’ve seen thousands of soldiers deployed from Kansas. I’ve visited our troops in Iraq, attended funerals and comforted families, and seen the impact at home of the war being waged.

We stand ready in the heartland and across this country to join forces with peace-loving nations across the globe and to fight the war against terrorists wherever they may strike. But our capable and dedicated soldiers can’t solve the political disputes where they are and can’t focus on the real enemies elsewhere.

The new Democratic majority of Congress and the vast majority of Americans are ready — ready to chart a new course. If more Republicans in Congress stand with us this year, we won’t have to wait for a new president to restore America’s role in the world and fight a more effective war on terror.

The last five years have cost us dearly in lives lost, in thousands of wounded warriors whose futures may never be the same, in challenges not met here at home because our resources were committed elsewhere. America’s foreign policy has left us with fewer allies and more enemies.

Join us, Mr. President, and working together with Congress to make tough, smart decisions, we will regain our standing in the world and protect our people and our interests.

I know government can work to benefit the people we serve, because I see it every day, not only here in Kansas, but in states across the country. I know government can work, Mr. President, because like you, I grew up in a family committed to public service. My father and my father-in-law both served in Congress — one a Republican and one a Democrat. They had far more in common than the issues that divided them: a love for their country that led them from military service to public service; a lifetime of working for the common good, making sacrifices so their children and grandchildren could have a better future. They are called “the greatest generation.”

But I believe, like parents across America, that our greatest generations are still to come; that we must chart a new course at home and abroad to give our future “greatest generations” all the opportunities our parents gave us.

These are uncertain times, but with strength and determination, we can meet the challenges together. If Washington can work quickly together on a short-term fix for families caught in the financial squeeze, then we can work together to transform America. In these difficult times, the American people aren’t afraid to face difficult choices, but we have no more patience for divisive politics.

Tonight’s address begins the final year of this presidency, with new leaders on the horizon and uncertainty throughout our land. Conditions we face, at home and abroad, are results of choices made and challenges unmet. In spite of the attempts to convince us that we are divided as a people, a new American majority has come together. We are tired of leaders who, rather than asking what we can do for our country, ask nothing of us at all. We are Americans sharing a belief in something greater than ourselves, a nation coming together to meet challenges and find solutions, to share sacrifices and share prosperity, and focus once again not only on the individual good but on the common good.

On behalf of the new American majority — the majority of elected officials at the national, state and local level, and the majority of Americans — we ask you, Mr. President, to join us. We’re ready to work together, to be the America we have been and can be once again.

Thank you for listening. God bless and sleep well. And in the morning, let’s get to work.

    Text of the Democratic Response, NYT, 29.1.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/29/us/29response.html






Text of the State of the Union Address


January 29, 2008
The New York Times


Following is the text of President Bush’s State of the Union address on Monday, as transcribed by the Federal News Service:

Thank you, Madame Speaker. Thank you all.

Madame Speaker, Vice President Cheney, members of Congress, distinguished guests and fellow citizens, seven years have passed since I first stood before you at this rostrum. In that time, our country has been tested in ways none of us could have imagined. We have faced hard decisions about peace and war, rising competition in the world economy, and the health and welfare of our citizens. These issues call for vigorous debate, and I think it’s fair to say we’ve answered the call. Yet history will record that amid our differences, we acted with purpose. And together, we showed the world the power and resilience of American self-government.

All of us were sent to Washington to carry out the people’s business. That is the purpose of this body. It is the meaning of our oath. It remains our charge to keep.

The actions of the 110th Congress will affect the security and prosperity of our nation long after this session has ended. In this election year, let us show our fellow Americans that we recognize our responsibilities and are determined to meet them. Let us show them that Republicans and Democrats can compete for votes and cooperate for results at the same time.

From expanding opportunity to protecting our country, we have made good progress; yet we have unfinished business before us, and the American people expect us to get it done. In the work ahead, we must be guided by the philosophy that made our nation great.

As Americans, we believe in the power of individuals to determine their destiny and shape the course of history. We believe that the most reliable guide for our country is the collective wisdom of ordinary citizens.

And so in all we do, we must trust in the ability of free people to make wise decisions and empower them to improve their lives for their futures. To build a prosperous future, we must trust people with their own money and empower them to grow our economy.

As we meet tonight, our economy is undergoing a period of uncertainty. America has added jobs for a record 52 straight months, but jobs are now growing at a slower pace. Wages are up, but so are prices for food and gas. Exports are rising, but the housing market has declined. At kitchen tables across our country, there is a concern about our economic future.

In the long run, Americans can be confident about our economic growth. But in the short run, we can all see that that growth is slowing. So last week my administration reached agreement with Speaker Pelosi and Republican Leader Boehner on a robust growth package that includes tax relief for individuals and families, and incentives for business investment. The temptation will be to load up the bill. That would delay it or derail it, and neither option is acceptable.

This is a good agreement that will keep our economy growing and our people working, and this Congress must pass it as soon as possible.

We have other work to do on taxes. Unless the Congress acts, most of the tax relief we have delivered over the past seven years will be taken away. Some in Washington argue that letting tax relief expire is not a tax increase. Try explaining that to 116 million American taxpayers who would see their taxes rise by an average of $1,800. Others have said they would personally be happy to pay higher taxes. I welcome their enthusiasm. I’m pleased to report that the I.R.S. accepts both checks and money orders.

Most Americans think their taxes are high enough. With all the other pressures on their finances, American families should not have to worry about the federal government taking a bigger bite out of their paychecks. There’s only one way to eliminate this uncertainty: make the tax relief permanent. And members of Congress should know: If any bill raises taxes reaches — reaches my desk, I will veto it.

Just as we trust Americans with their own money, we need to earn their trust by spending their tax dollars wisely. Next week, I will send you a budget that terminates or substantially reduces 151 wasteful or bloated programs totaling more than $18 billion. The budget that I will submit will keep America on track for a surplus in 2012. American families have to balance their budgets; so should their government.

The people’s trust in their government is undermined by congressional earmarks, special interest projects that are often snuck in at the last minute without discussion or debate. Last year I asked you to voluntarily cut the number and cost of earmarks in half. I also asked you to stop slipping earmarks into committee reports that never even come to a vote.

Unfortunately, neither goal was met. So this time, if you send me an appropriations bill that does not cut the number and cost of earmarks in half, I’ll send it back to you with my veto. And tomorrow I will issue an executive order that directs federal agencies to ignore any future earmark that is not voted on by Congress. If these items are truly worth funding, the Congress should debate them in the open and hold a public vote.

Our shared responsibilities extend beyond matters of taxes and spending. On housing, we must trust Americans with the responsibility of homeownership and empower them to weather turbulent times in the housing market. My administration brought together the Hope Now alliance, which is helping many struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure.

And Congress can help even more. Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to reform Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, modernize the Federal Housing Administration and allow state housing agencies to issue tax-free bonds to help homeowners refinance their mortgages. These are difficult times for many American families, and by taking these steps, we can help more of them keep their homes.

To build a future of quality health care, we must trust patients and doctors to make medical decisions and empower them with better information and better options. We share a common goal: making health care more affordable and accessible for all Americans.

The best way to achieve that goal is by expanding consumer choice, not government control. So I have proposed ending the bias in the tax code against those who do not get their health insurance through their employer. This one reform would put private coverage within reach for millions, and I call on the Congress to pass it this year.

Congress must also expand health savings accounts, create Association Health Plans for small businesses, promote health information technology, and confront the epidemic of junk medical lawsuits. With all these steps, we will help ensure that decisions about your medical care are made in the privacy of your doctor’s office, not in the halls of Congress.

On education, we must trust students to learn if given the chance and empower parents to demand results from our schools.

In neighborhoods across our country, there are boys and girls with dreams, and a decent education is their only hope of achieving them. Six years ago, we came together to pass the No Child Left Behind Act, and today no one can deny its results. Last year, fourth and eighth graders achieved the highest math scores on record. Reading scores are on the rise. African-American and Hispanic students posted all- time highs. Now we must — Now we must work together to increase accountability, add flexibilities for states and districts, reduce the number of high school dropouts, provide extra help for struggling schools.

Members of Congress, the No Child Left Behind Act is a bipartisan achievement. It is succeeding. And we owe it to America’s children, their parents, and their teachers to strengthen this good law.

We must also do more to help children when their schools do not measure up.

Thanks to the D.C. Opportunity Scholarships you approved, more than 2,600 of the poorest children in our nation’s capital have found new hope at a faith-based or other non-public school.

Sadly, these schools are disappearing at an alarming rate in many of America’s inner cities. So I will convene a White House summit aimed at strengthening these lifelines of learning.

And to open the doors of these schools to more children, I ask you to support a new $300 million program called Pell Grants for Kids. We have seen how Pell Grants help low-income college students realize their full potential. Together, we’ve expanded the size and reach of these grants. Now let us apply that same spirit to help liberate poor children trapped in failing public schools.

On trade, we must trust American workers to compete with anyone in the world, and empower them by opening up new markets overseas.

Today our economic growth increasingly depends on our ability to sell American goods and crops and services all over the world. So we’re working to break down barriers to trade and investment wherever we can.

We’re working for a successful Doha round of trade talks, and we must complete a good agreement this year. At the same time, we’re pursuing opportunities to open up new markets by passing free trade agreements.

I thank the Congress for approving a good agreement with Peru, and now I ask you to approve agreements with Colombia and Panama and South Korea. Many products from these nations now enter America duty-free, yet many of our products face steep tariffs in their markets. These agreements will level the playing field. They will give us better access to nearly 100 million customers. They will support good jobs for the finest workers in the world: those whose products say “Made in the U.S.A.”

These agreements also promote America’s strategic interests. The first agreement that will come before you is with Colombia, a friend of America that is confronting violence and terror, and fighting drug traffickers. If we fail to pass this agreement, we will embolden the purveyors of false populism in our hemisphere. So we must come together, pass this agreement, and show our neighbors in the region that democracy leads to a better life.

Trade brings better jobs and better choices and better prices. Yet for some Americans, trade can mean losing a job, and the federal government has a responsibility to help. I ask the Congress to reauthorize and reform trade adjustment assistance so we can help these displaced workers learn new skills and find new jobs.

To build a future of energy security, we must trust in the creative genius of American researchers and entrepreneurs, and empower them to pioneer a new generation of clean energy technology. Our security, our prosperity, and our environment all require reducing our dependence on oil.

Last year, I asked you to pass legislation to reduce oil consumption over the next decade, and you responded. Together we should take the next steps. Let us fund new technologies that can generate coal power while capturing carbon emissions. Let us increase the use of renewable power and emissions-free nuclear power. Let us continue investing in advanced battery technology and renewable fuels to power the cars and trucks of the future. Let us create a new international clean technology fund, which will help developing nations like India and China make greater use of clean energy sources. And let us complete an international agreement that has the potential to slow, stop, and eventually reverse the growth of greenhouse gases.

This agreement will be effective only if it includes commitments by every major economy and gives none a free ride.

The United States is committed to strengthening our energy security and confronting global climate change. And the best way to meet these goals is for America to continue leading the way toward the development of cleaner and more energy-efficient technology.

To keep America competitive into the future, we must trust in the skill of our scientists and engineers and empower them to pursue the breakthroughs of tomorrow. Last year Congress passed legislation supporting the American Competitiveness Initiative, but never followed through with the funding. This funding is essential to keeping our scientific edge. So I ask Congress to double federal support for critical basic research in the physical sciences and ensure America remains the most dynamic nation on earth.

On matters of life and science, we must trust in the innovative spirit of medical researchers and empower them to discover new treatments while respecting moral boundaries. In November we witnessed a landmark achievement when scientists discovered a way to reprogram adult skin cells to act like embryonic stem cells. This breakthrough has the potential to move us beyond the divisive debates of the past by extending the frontiers of medicine without the destruction of human life.

So we are expanding funding for this type of ethical medical research, and as we explore promising avenues of research, we must also ensure that all life is treated with the dignity it deserves. And so I call on the Congress to pass legislation that bans unethical practices such as the buying, selling, patenting, or cloning of human life.

On matters of justice, we must trust in the wisdom of our Founders and empower judges who understand that the Constitution means what it says. I — And I’ve submitted judicial nominees who will rule by the letter of the law, not the whim of the gavel. Many of these nominees are being unfairly delayed. They are worthy of confirmation, and the Senate should give each of them a prompt up-or- down vote.

In communities across our land, we must trust in the good heart of the American people and empower them to serve their neighbors in need. Over the past seven years, more of our fellow citizens have discovered that the pursuit of happiness leads to the path of service. Americans have volunteered in record numbers. Charitable donations are higher than ever. Faith-based groups are bringing hope to pockets of despair with newfound support from the federal government. And to help guarantee equal treatment for faith-based organizations when they compete for federal funds, I ask you to permanently extend Charitable Choice.

Tonight the armies of compassion continue the march to a new day in the Gulf Coast. America honors the strength and resilience of the people of this region. We reaffirm our pledge to help them build stronger and better than before. And tonight I am pleased to announce that in April we will host this year’s North American Summit of Canada, Mexico, and the United States in the great city of New Orleans.

There are two other pressing challenges that I’ve raised repeatedly before this body, and that this body has failed to address: entitlement spending and immigration.

Every member in this chamber knows that spending on entitlement programs like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is growing faster than we can afford. We all know the painful choices ahead if America stays on this path: massive tax increases, sudden and drastic cuts in benefits, or crippling deficits. I have laid out proposals to reform these programs. Now I ask members of Congress to offer your proposals and come up with a bipartisan solution to save these vital programs for our children and grandchildren.

The other pressing challenge is immigration. America needs to secure our borders; and with your help, my administration is taking steps to do so. We’re increasing work-site enforcement, deploying fences and advanced technologies to stop illegal crossings. We’ve effectively ended the policy of “catch and release” at the border. And by the end of this year, we will have doubled the number of Border Patrol agents.

Yet we also need to acknowledge that we will never fully secure our border until we create a lawful way for foreign workers to come here and support our economy. This will take pressure off the border and allow law enforcement to concentrate on those who mean us harm.

We must also find a sensible and humane way to deal with people here illegally. Illegal immigration is complicated, but it can be resolved. And it must be resolved in a way that upholds both our laws and our highest ideals.

This is the business of our nation here at home.

Yet building a prosperous future for our citizens also depends on confronting enemies abroad and advancing liberty in troubled regions of the world.

Our foreign policy is based on a clear premise: we trust that people, when given the chance, will choose a future of freedom and peace. In the last seven years, we have witnessed stirring moments in the history of liberty. We have seen citizens in Georgia and Ukraine stand up for their right to free and fair elections. We’ve seen people in Lebanon take to the streets to demand their independence. We’ve seen Afghans emerge from the tyranny of the Taliban to choose a new president and a new parliament. We’ve seen jubilant Iraqis holding up ink-stained fingers and celebrating their freedom. These images of liberty have inspired us.

In the past seven years, we’ve also seen images that have sobered us. We have watched throngs of mourners in Lebanon and Pakistan carrying the caskets of beloved leaders taken by the assassin’s hand. We’ve seen wedding guests in blood-soaked finery staggering from a hotel in Jordan, Afghans and Iraqis blown up in mosques and markets, and trains in London and Madrid ripped apart by bombs.

On a clear September day, we saw thousands of our fellow citizens taken from us in an instant. These horrific images serve as a grim reminder: The advance of liberty is opposed by terrorists and extremists — evil men who despise freedom, despise America, and aim to subject millions to their violent rule.

Since 9/11, we have taken the fight to these terrorists and extremists. We will stay on the offense, we will keep up the pressure, and we will deliver justice to our enemies.

We are engaged in the defining ideological struggle of the 21st century. The terrorists oppose every principle of humanity and decency that we hold dear. Yet in this war on terror, there is one thing we and our enemies agree on: In the long run, men and women who are free to determine their own destinies will reject terror and refuse to live in tyranny. That is why the terrorists are fighting to deny this choice to people in Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Palestinian territories. And that is why, for the security of America and the peace of the world, we are spreading the hope of freedom.

In Afghanistan, America, our 25 NATO allies, and 15 partner nations are helping the Afghan people defend their freedom and rebuild their country. Thanks to the courage of these military and civilian personnel, a nation that was once a safe haven for Al Qaeda is now a young democracy where boys and girls are going to school, new roads and hospitals are being built, and people are looking to the future with new hope. These successes must continue, so we’re adding 3,200 Marines to our forces in Afghanistan, where they will fight the terrorists and train the Afghan army and police. Defeating the Taliban and Al Qaeda is critical to our security, and I thank the Congress for supporting America’s vital mission in Afghanistan.

In Iraq, the terrorists and extremists are fighting to deny a proud people their liberty, and fighting to establish safe havens for attacks across the world. One year ago our enemies were succeeding in their efforts to plunge Iraq into chaos. So we reviewed our strategy and changed course. We launched a surge of American forces into Iraq. We gave our troops a new mission: Work with the Iraqi forces to protect the Iraqi people, pursue the enemy in its strongholds, and deny the terrorists sanctuary anywhere in the country.

The Iraqi people quickly realized that something dramatic had happened. Those who had worried that America was preparing to abandon them instead saw tens of thousands of American forces flowing into their country. They saw our forces moving into neighborhoods, clearing out the terrorists and staying behind to ensure the enemy did not return. And they saw our troops, along with Provincial Reconstruction Teams that include Foreign Service officers and other skilled public servants, coming in to ensure that improved security was followed by improvements in daily life.

Our military and civilians in Iraq are performing with courage and distinction, and they have the gratitude of our whole nation.

The Iraqis launched a surge of their own. In the fall of 2006, Sunni tribal leaders grew tired of Al Qaeda’s brutality and started a popular uprising called “The Anbar Awakening.” Over the past year, similar movements have spread across the country. And today, the grass-roots surge includes more than 80,000 Iraqi citizens who are fighting the terrorists. The government in Baghdad has stepped forward as well, adding more than 100,000 new Iraqi soldiers and police during the past year.

While the enemy is still dangerous and more work remains, the American and Iraqi surges have achieved results few of us could have imagined just one year ago.

When we met last year, many said that containing the violence was impossible. A year later, high-profile terrorist attacks are down, civilian deaths are down, sectarian killings are down.

When we met last year, militia extremists — some armed and trained by Iran — were wreaking havoc in large areas of Iraq.

A year later, coalition and Iraqi forces have killed or captured hundreds of militia fighters, and Iraqis of all backgrounds increasingly realize that defeating these militia fighters is critical to the future of their country.

When we met last year, Al Qaeda had sanctuaries in many areas of Iraq, and their leaders had just offered American forces safe passage out of the country. Today it is Al Qaeda that is searching for safe passage. They have been driven from many of the strongholds they once held, and over the past year, we have captured or killed thousands of extremists in Iraq, including hundreds of key Al Qaeda leaders and operatives.

Last month, Osama bin Laden released a tape in which he railed against Iraqi tribal leaders who have turned on Al Qaeda, and admitted that coalition forces are growing stronger in Iraq.

Ladies and gentlemen, some may deny the surge is working, but among the terrorists there is no doubt. Al Qaeda is on the run in Iraq, and this enemy will be defeated.

When we met last year, our troop levels in Iraq were on the rise. Today, because of the progress just described, we are implementing a policy of “return on success,” and the surge forces we sent to Iraq are beginning to come home. This progress is a credit to the valor of our troops and the brilliance of their commanders. This evening, I want to speak directly to our men and women on the front lines.

Soldiers and sailors, airmen, marines and Coast Guardsmen, in the past year, you have done everything we have asked of you, and more. Our nation is grateful for your courage. We are proud of your accomplishments. And tonight in this hallowed chamber, with the American people as our witness, we make you a solemn pledge: In the fight ahead, you will have all you need to protect our nation.

And I ask Congress to meet its responsibilities to these brave men and women by fully funding our troops.

Our enemies in Iraq have been hit hard. They are not yet defeated, and we can still expect tough fighting ahead. Our objective in the coming year is to sustain and build on the gains we made in 2007, while transitioning to the next phase of our strategy. American troops are shifting from leading operations to partnering with Iraqi forces and, eventually, to a protective overwatch mission. As part of this transition, one Army brigade combat team and one Marine Expeditionary Unit have already come home and will not be replaced. In the coming months, four additional brigades and two Marine battalions will follow suit. Taken together, this means more than 20,000 of our troops are coming home.

Any further — any further drawdown of U.S. troops will be based on conditions in Iraq and the recommendations of our commanders. General Petraeus has warned that too fast a drawdown could result in, quote, “the disintegration of the Iraqi security forces, Al Qaeda-Iraq regaining lost ground, and a marked increase in violence.”

Members of Congress, having come so far and achieved so much, we must not allow this to happen.

In the coming year, we will work with Iraqi leaders as they build on the progress they’re making toward political reconciliation. At the local level, Sunnis, Shia and Kurds are beginning to come together to reclaim their communities and rebuild their lives.

Progress in the provinces must be matched by progress in Baghdad. We’re seeing some encouraging signs. The national government is sharing oil revenues with the provinces. The parliament recently passed both a pension law and de-Ba’athification reform. They’re now debating a provincial powers law.

The Iraqis still have a distance to travel, but after decades of dictatorship and the pain of sectarian violence, reconciliation is taking place, and the Iraqi people are taking control of their future.

The mission in Iraq has been difficult and trying for our nation, but it is in the vital interest of the United States that we succeed. A free Iraq will deny Al Qaeda a safe haven. A free Iraq will show millions across the Middle East that a future of liberty is possible. A free Iraq will be a friend of America, a partner in fighting terror and a source of stability in a dangerous part of the world.

By contrast, a failed Iraq would embolden the extremists, strengthen Iran, and give terrorists a base from which to launch new attacks on our friends, our allies and our homeland. The enemy has made its intentions clear. At a time when the momentum seemed to favor them, Al Qaeda’s top commander in Iraq declared that they will not rest until they have attacked us here in Washington.

My fellow Americans, we will not rest either: We will not rest until this enemy has been defeated. We must do the difficult work today so that years from now people will look back and say that this generation rose to the moment, prevailed in a tough fight, and left behind a more hopeful region and a safer America.

We’re also standing against the forces of extremism in the Holy Land, where we have new cause for hope.

Palestinians have elected a president who recognizes that confronting terror is essential to achieving a state where his people can live in dignity and at peace with Israel. Israelis have leaders who recognize that a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state will be a source of lasting security. This month in Ramallah and Jerusalem I assured leaders from both sides that America will do, and I will do, everything we can to help them achieve a peace agreement that defines a Palestinian state by the end of this year. The time has come for a Holy Land where a democratic Israel and a democratic Palestine live side by side in peace.

We’re also standing against the forces of extremism embodied by the regime in Tehran. Iran’s rulers oppress a good and talented people. And wherever freedom advances in the Middle East, it seems the Iranian regime is there to oppose it.

Iran is funding and training militia groups in Iraq, supporting Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, and backing Hamas’s efforts to undermine peace in the Holy Land. Tehran is also developing ballistic missiles of increasing range and continues to develop its capability to enrich uranium, which could be used to create a nuclear weapon.

Our message to the people of Iran is clear: We have no quarrel with you. We respect your traditions and your history. We look forward to the day when you have your freedom.

Our message to the leaders of Iran is also clear: Verifiably suspend your nuclear enrichment so negotiations can begin. And to rejoin the community of nations, come clean about your nuclear intentions and past actions, stop your oppression at home, cease your support for terror abroad. But above all, know this: America will confront those who threaten our troops, we will stand by our allies, and we will defend our vital interests in the Persian Gulf.

On the home front, we will continue to take every lawful and effective measure to protect our country. This is our most solemn duty. We are grateful that there has not been another attack on our soil since 9/11. This is not for the lack of desire or effort on the part of the enemy. In the past six years we’ve stopped numerous attacks, including a plot to fly a plane into the tallest building in Los Angeles and another to blow up passenger jets bound for America over the Atlantic. Dedicated men and women in our government toil day and night to stop the terrorists from carrying out their plans. These good citizens are saving American lives, and everyone in this chamber owes them our thanks.

And we owe them something more: We owe them the tools they need to keep our people safe. And one of the most important tools we can give them is the ability to monitor terrorist communications. To protect America, we need to know who the terrorists are talking to, what they are saying, and what they are planning. Last year, Congress passed legislation to help us do that. Unfortunately, Congress set the legislation to expire on February the 1st. That means that if you do not act by Friday, our ability to track terrorist threats would be weakened and our citizens will be in greater danger. Congress must ensure the flow of vital intelligence is not disrupted. Congress must pass liability protection for companies believed to have assisted in the efforts to defend America. We’ve had ample time for debate. The time to act is now.

Protecting our nation from the dangers of a new century requires more than good intelligence and a strong military. It also requires changing the conditions that breed resentment and allow extremists to prey on despair. So America is using its influence to build a freer, more hopeful and more compassionate world. This is a reflection of our national interests. It is the calling of our conscience.

America opposes genocide in Sudan. We support freedom in countries from Cuba and Zimbabwe to Belarus and Burma.

America is leading the fight against global poverty, with strong education initiatives and humanitarian assistance. We’ve also changed the way we deliver aid by launching the Millennium Challenge Account. This program strengthens democracy, transparency and the rule of law in developing nations, and I ask you to fully fund this important initiative.

America is leading the fight against global hunger. Today, more than half the world’s food aid comes from the United States. And tonight I ask the Congress to support an innovative proposal to provide food assistance by purchasing crops directly from farmers in the developing world so we can build up local agriculture and help break the cycle of famine.

America is leading the fight against disease. With your help, we’re working to cut by half the number of malaria-related deaths in 15 African nations. And our Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief is treating 1.4 million people. We can bring healing and hope to many more. So I ask you to maintain the principles that have changed behavior and made this program a success, and I call on you to double our initial commitment to fighting H.I.V./AIDS by approving an additional $30 billion over the next five years.

America’s a force for hope in the world because we are a compassionate people. And some of the most compassionate Americans are those who have stepped forward to protect us. We must keep faith with all who have risked life and limb so that we might live in freedom and peace.

Over the past seven years, we’ve increased funding for veterans by more than 95 percent. And as we increase funding — And as we increase funding, we must also reform our veterans system to meet the needs of a new war and a new generation.

I call on Congress to enact the reforms recommended by Senator Bob Dole and Secretary Donna Shalala, so we can improve the system of care for our wounded warriors and help them build lives of hope and promise and dignity.

Our military families also sacrifice for America. They endure sleepless nights and the daily struggle of providing for children while a loved one is serving far from home. We have a responsibility to provide for them. So I ask you to join me in expanding their access to child care, creating new hiring preferences for military spouses across the federal government, and allowing our troops to transfer their unused education benefits to their spouses or children. Our military families serve our nation, they inspire our nation, and tonight our nation honors them.

The strength — the secret of our strength, the miracle of America, is that our greatness lies not in our government, but in the spirit and determination of our people. When the federal convention — when the federal convention met in Philadelphia in 1787, our nation was bound by the Articles of Confederation, which began with the words, “We the undersigned delegates.” When Gouverneur Morris was asked to draft the preamble to our new Constitution, he offered an important revision and opened with words that changed the course of our nation and the history of the world: “We the people.”

By trusting the people, our founders wagered that a great and noble nation could be built on the liberty that resides in the hearts of all men and women. By trusting the people, succeeding generations transformed our fragile young democracy into the most powerful nation on Earth and a beacon of hope for millions. And so long as we continue to trust the people, our nation will prosper, our liberty will be secure, and the state of our union will remain strong.

So tonight, with confidence in freedom’s power and trust in the people, let us set forth to do their business. God bless America. Thank you all.

    Text of the State of the Union Address, NYT, 29.1.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/29/us/29bushtext.html







The Fine Print


January 30, 2008
The New York Times


With President Bush, you always have to read the footnotes.

Just before Monday night’s State of the Union speech, in which Mr. Bush extolled bipartisanship, railed against government excesses and promised to bring the troops home as soon as it’s safe to withdraw, the White House undermined all of those sentiments with the latest of the president’s infamous signing statements.

The signing statements are documents that earlier presidents generally used to trumpet their pleasure at signing a law, or to explain how it would be enforced. More than any of his predecessors, the current chief executive has used the pronouncements in a passive-aggressive way to undermine the power of Congress.

Over the last seven years, Mr. Bush has issued hundreds of these insidious documents declaring that he had no intention of obeying a law that he had just signed. This is not just constitutional theory. Remember the detainee treatment act, which Mr. Bush signed and then proceeded to ignore, as he told C.I.A. interrogators that they could go on mistreating detainees?

This week’s statement was attached to the military budget bill, which covers everything except the direct cost of the war. The bill included four important provisions that Mr. Bush decided he will enforce only if he wants to.

The president said they impinged on his constitutional powers. We asked the White House to explain that claim, but got no answer, so we’ll do our best to figure it out.

The first provision created a commission to determine how reliant the government is on contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, how much waste, fraud and abuse has occurred and what has been done to hold accountable those who are responsible. Congress authorized the commission to compel government officials to testify.

Perhaps this violated Mr. Bush’s sense of his power to dole out contracts as he sees fit and to hold contractors harmless. The same theory applies to the second provision that Mr. Bush said he would not obey: a new law providing protection against reprisal to those who expose waste, fraud or abuse in wartime contracts.

The third measure Mr. Bush rejected requires intelligence officials to respond to a request for documents from the Armed Services Committees of Congress within 45 days, either by producing the documents or explaining why they are being withheld. Clearly, this violates the power that Mr. Bush has given himself to cover up an array of illegal and improper actions, like his decisions to spy on Americans without a warrant, to torture prisoners in violation of the Geneva Conventions and to fire United States attorneys apparently for political reasons.

It’s glaringly obvious why Mr. Bush rejected the fourth provision, which states that none of the money authorized for military purposes may be used to establish permanent military bases in Iraq.

It is more evidence, as if any were needed, that Mr. Bush never intended to end this war, and that he still views it as the prelude to an unceasing American military presence in Iraq.

    The Fine Print, NYT, 30.1.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/30/opinion/30wed1.html






Op-Ed Contributor

The Bush Who Got Away


January 28, 2008
The New York Times


AS George W. Bush prepares to deliver his final State of the Union address, it’s worth revisiting the first speech he gave to a joint session of Congress. His valedictory words tonight will provide an opportunity to reflect on the kind of president Mr. Bush was. The speech delivered seven years ago points to the very different sort of president he might have been.

Mr. Bush began his February 2001 address by hailing the new spirit of cooperation he hoped would characterize his relations with Congress. “Together we are changing the tone in the nation’s capital,” he declared. The new president’s top priority would be education. He intended to marry the liberal desire for more federal money to the conservative demand for higher standards.

The rest of the speech was similarly moderate in tone and substance. Mr. Bush planned to use part of the enormous fiscal surplus he inherited for a broad-based tax cut. But he also wanted to expand Medicare benefits, preserve Social Security, extend access to health care and protect the environment. He concluded with an exhortation to bipartisanship — in Spanish. “Juntos podemos,” he said. “Together we can.”

Mr. Bush seemed genuinely to want to be the kind of president indicated by that first address. He meant to build a broad coalition on the model of his governorship in Texas, where he worked closely with Democrats in the Legislature, made his chief cause correcting racial disparities in education, and was re-elected in 1998 by an almost 40 percentage point margin, including 27 percent of the black vote and at least a third of Latinos. I always sort of liked that George W. Bush. Whatever happened to him?

Mr. Bush never completely abandoned the compassionate conservatism we glimpsed that night seven years ago. His second speech to Congress, nine days after Sept. 11, 2001, reflected his instinctive response to the attacks, which was to appeal for national unity in a non-partisan manner. Mr. Bush’s third speech to Congress (his first formal State of the Union address, in 2002) is remembered for its reference to the “axis of evil.” But the president also boasted about his cooperation with such Democrats as George Miller and Ted Kennedy on education policy. His strongest emphasis was on public service. He proposed doubling the size of the Peace Corps and called on every American to commit at least 4,000 hours — two full working years — to community service.

The following year, in 2003, Mr. Bush pressed his case for invading Iraq and uttered the infamous 16 words (“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa”). But alongside that disingenuous indictment, Mr. Bush presented Congress with a new raft of centrist-minded initiatives: $450 million to minister to the needs of children of prisoners, $600 million to treat drug addicts, $1.2 billion for hydrogen-powered cars, $10 billion in new money to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean.

And so on, in each subsequent speech. In 2004, Mr. Bush used weasel words to describe the missing Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. He claimed to have disrupted “dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities.” But when he turned to domestic matters, the president unveiled a new science and math program for low-income students and a program to help former prisoners re-enter society. He included an eloquent plea for the kind of immigration reform that would “reflect our values and benefit our economy.”

To this day, Mr. Bush’s compassionate conservatism has never vanished completely. Some of Mr. Bush’s signature programs, like his initiative to provide AIDS drugs to Africans, have had meaningful effects. But others haven’t lived up to their rhetorical promise. What about that special training for defense lawyers in capital cases (pledged in his 2005 State of the Union address)? The initiative to encourage mentoring for at-risk children (2006)? The grants to extend health insurance coverage (2007)? Such gestures tended to linger in the air only as long as it took Mr. Bush to make them.

So often with Mr. Bush, compassionate government began and ended with the heartfelt public avowal. He was too distracted by war and foreign policy, and too bored by the processes of government to know if the people working for him were following through on his proposals.

And of course, Mr. Bush’s left hand acted as if it didn’t know what his right hand was doing. After his first year in office, Democrats burned by his political strategy of polarization were disinclined to work with him on shared goals.

The Compassionate Conservative will surely pay us a final visit tonight. He remains an appealing character, but a largely fictional one. I wonder how the last seven years might have turned out if he had actually existed. In the final year of a failed presidency, I bet Mr. Bush does too.

Jacob Weisberg, the editor of Slate, is the author of “The Bush Tragedy.”

    The Bush Who Got Away, NYT, 28.1.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/28/opinion/28weisberg.html?ref=opinion






Transcript of Bush interview


25 January 2008
USA Today


START: 1:41 P.M. ET


THE PRESIDENT: Come on in. I may have to take a phone call — which I presume you'll understand.

QUESTION: Can we stay and listen to it? (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT: No, but I can tell you what it's going to be — Speaker Pelosi and Leader Boehner.

QUESTION: They're actually speaking now; I think they're doing their —

THE PRESIDENT: That's right. Good. First of all, looking forward to the State of the Union. A couple of points I want to make about it.

One, it will reflect my belief that we can still get a lot done; that there's common ground to be had on a variety of issues; and I'll be making new proposals, as well. The point I want to make to you right off the bat is that I have said I'm going to sprint to the finish, the speech will make it clear I'm going to sprint to the finish.

Obviously one of the places where we can have common ground is on the deal that's being announced now, as I understand it, with Secretary Paulson as well as the Speaker and — make sure I'm right on that, it's what I'm told.

And then of course, the first part of the speech will be on domestic policy. The second part of the speech will be on foreign policy. A lot of it has to do with the freedom agenda and my great belief that freedom is transformative and will lead to peace.

I'll be talking about successes in Iraq. Also talking about the fact we've got more work to do in Iraq. And then I'll be touching other areas of foreign policy, including the need for America to understand that our compassion should be manifested in helping people who suffer from disease and hunger.

So I'm looking forward to it. It's written, pretty well edited, and this afternoon will be my first kind of run-through to get a sense of timing and time.

QUESTION: When you said that last point about the need to show compassion, is that a reference to your global AIDS initiative?


QUESTION: What do you want to do when it comes to that?

THE PRESIDENT: Double the funding to $30 billion. So it's a funding issue. We have a strategy that's working, and it is to support a strategy that has made a difference in over a million people's lives in a relatively quick period of time.

I'll also touch on the malaria initiative. And I'll touch on hunger. We're a generous nation when it comes to hunger. We've got a new idea that — I'm not going to tell you all my new ideas, if you don't mind. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Awww. (Laughter.)

(Interruption to interview.)

* * * * *

THE PRESIDENT: Anyway, that was the Speaker and Boehner and Henry Paulson saying they've reached an agreement and they're going to go out and announce it right now. It's good.

QUESTION: You must feel good about that. Why do you think that came together so fast? To what do you attribute —

THE PRESIDENT: Because I think there was common concern about the uncertainty in our economy and there was — when people thought long and hard about what we could do and do effectively, we all came to the same conclusion, and that is, something temporary and something robust enough to affect the economy and something that would have the effect of dealing with the reason why people are uncertain. And one of them is, of course, the housing issue. And one of them is the markets. And therefore one of the concerns has been there has been a wealth effect — people would say, uh-oh, I'm losing value, and therefore I'm not going to be an active consumer. And the idea is to enhance consumerism.

And the other thing is business, the business — including small businesses, will get an incentive to invest quickly. And quick investment is another way of getting — it will be an effective growth package.

* * * * *

QUESTION: You still must have an incentive, I'm wondering, to use your bully pulpit at this point to say, let's not turn this into a Christmas tree. Is that — I don't want to put words in your mouth, but are you going to —

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it's simple, robust and effective. And that's exactly the spirit you'll hear coming out of this press conference, that's what the Speaker just told me, and John Boehner.

So anyway, it's a positive — very positive development. It should send a good signal to the American people that it is possible to work together for the common good. And it should send a signal to the body that it's time to move, get something done quickly. We need to get it done quickly so that the money can get out into the economy and achieve the effectiveness we want.

QUESTION: Just one more try. Should the Senate, or should anyone in Congress not attempt to alter this package significantly during the legislative process?

THE PRESIDENT: Let me just put it this way, we're very pleased with the package. And there's an agreement in the House on the package. And I'm confident that this will pass the House and then the Senate will consider it, and of course we hope the Senate would accept the package as written.

QUESTION: Are you also confident that if this package is passed as negotiated, that the country will avert a recession?

THE PRESIDENT: I've always said the underpinnings of the economy are strong, and that inflation is low. There was another good jobs report today, exports are rising, productivity increases are still evident. I'm optimistic about economic growth. This package is meant to be an insurance policy.

QUESTION: Do you think, though, it still — there is good news about the economy, as you ticked off, but also some bad news: the housing bust, the credit crunch.

THE PRESIDENT: And that's what we're trying to deal with in this package.

QUESTION But you think those fundamental underpinnings will sustain the U.S. economy so we won't have a recession this year?

THE PRESIDENT: That's what I believe, yes.

QUESTION: Do you feel that there should be any sort of — and this gets into the State of the Union — follow-on package to this? This is what you could do quickly — and presumably, as you mentioned before, you sort of suggested what will happen with this package. Should there be more in terms of infrastructure spending? Something on capital gains? Something on state and local —

THE PRESIDENT: I think that one thing is for certain that we need to do — and I've said this publicly and will say it again — is make the tax cuts permanent. One of the issues we're dealing with is uncertainty. One of the uncertain — a piece of uncertainty is whether or not someone's taxes are going to go up.

And I'll also talk about trade. One of the things that's interesting is in the third quarter, exports helped propel growth. And I'll make the case that exports are important for economic vitality, and therefore let us take advantage of an opportunity to level the playing field when it comes to trade in Colombia and Panama and South Korea.

That's what I did yesterday with the mayors. So we're working the trade issue pretty hard. And there will be others — I don't want to give the speech. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I've been out on the campaign trail a lot —

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, you have been.

QUESTION: I have been. A lot of skepticism about free trade; Hillary Clinton questioning NAFTA. Even on the Republican side some skepticism toward the benefits of free trade. What do you say to the candidates —

THE PRESIDENT: I say that trade creates jobs. And I fully understand that you can whip up populous sentiment against trade, but if they would look at how our economy grew in the third quarter, they see the benefits of opening up markets for U.S. goods and services. You know, I looked — my State of the Union two years ago, I chose to make a philosophical statement about the dangers of isolationism and protectionism precisely because of the sentiments that you, yourself, picked up on. I truly worry about our nation trying to wall itself off from economic opportunities. So therefore I will be — have always had and will continue to be a strong advocate of free and fair trade.

The interesting thing on some of these trade agreements is that our products are treated differently than their products. In other words, we're more accepting of people's products in our country and, yet, when we try to sell ours into theirs, they face a higher barrier to entry. And rather than retaliate with our own barrier of entry, my attitude is let's get them to reduce theirs. It's in the benefit of workers and entrepreneurs and farmers to do that. I recognize as well that some workers lose their jobs as a result of trade, and therefore we've got to have trade adjustment assistance that is targeted and focused to get these people the skills necessary to fill the jobs here in America.

But, no, I understand the issue well.

* * * * *

QUESTION: To the degree that you address spending and tax policy in the State of the Union — I'm just going to take a flyer here — it seemed that if you have one more State of the Union you're likely to say something about earmarks?


QUESTION: Why not say that they ought to be abolished entirely?

THE PRESIDENT: I'm going to say something about it and would ask you to, if you're not going to watch it, Tivo it. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Not something you want to preview?

THE PRESIDENT: No, I don't want to preview it. I will address it.

QUESTION: I wonder if the fact that we've had this rush of concern about the economy by everybody — you know, it took, I think, Wall Street by surprise and the Fed by surprise. I wonder if it took you by surprise.

THE PRESIDENT: I don't have the chronology of all my discussions about the economy over the past eight or nine months. But I was talking about the housing issue — we started I think last — look, we need to get you the facts — but I would say September with the HOPE NOW Alliance.

MS. PERINO: That was August 31st.

THE PRESIDENT: Yes. The reason I bring that up is what's interesting on the housing issue is that when you and I were young adults we used to negotiate our mortgages with savings and loans, and if we got in a bind we would go to that same savings and loan officer and renegotiate our note. Well, there is no such thing anymore. As a matter of fact, the originator of the note doesn't own the note.

So the challenge is how to help people stay in their homes, how to help them work their way through this kind of new financial era so that they know how to — and know with whom to negotiate to stay in their homes. It's really an education process. And Paulson and Jackson have done a good job of bringing forth lenders, note-holders, advocates to help thousands of people understand what they need to do to refinance, renegotiate.

One of the things I will call for is for Congress to get the federal housing, FHA modernization bill to my desk, because that will make it easier for the federal government to help refinance.

So we've been talking about the housing issue for quite a while. I, frankly, think that the quicker our — the quicker the credit is analyzed on all fronts, the quicker people are able to deal with the credit on their balance sheets, the better off America will be. And I think that's what you're seeing. I think you're seeing a bunch of people really assessing that which they own.

I, frankly, welcome capital coming into our country to make investments in these firms. I think that's a healthy sign. I think it's good.

QUESTION: Did, in terms of these foreign countries —

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, absolutely.

QUESTION: — and caused some alarms —

THE PRESIDENT: Of course, that's part of — we ought to welcome foreign capital. Obviously, we've got a CFIUS process that makes sure that sensitive industries are not run by foreign people. And that's a legitimate process and the American people expect that. But when it comes to foreign capital making investments in U.S. financial institutions, we ought to say thank you.

As a matter of fact, I was asked right about the China investment in the press conference and said, yes, when China invested in Merrill Lynch — I said you bet we ought to welcome people to invest in America. That's part of a society that trades confidently.

QUESTION: When you think about the housing crisis that we've now seen, do you think that, with the benefit of hindsight, government regulators should have done more to stop some of this very aggressive marketing of —

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I think so. I think there should have been a concern to make sure there was more transparency in the process. These contracts, these reset contracts, the sub-prime loans are — you know, sound — unless fully disclosed, sound awfully attractive to a first-time home buyer.

So I don't have a specific for you, except to the extent that people were misled or not told the full truth, that's wrong, and therefore there needs to be a regulatory process that can ensure when people are out marketing securities there is a sense of fairness. There will be investigations, I'm confident, and people who didn't tell the truth should be punished — or misled, I guess.

QUESTION: I was asking you earlier about the potential follow-on economic — fiscal policy —

THE PRESIDENT: I know you were, yes.

QUESTION: And one question I have is — and you talked about making the tax cuts permanent. What about —

THE PRESIDENT: And addressed your capital gains question.

* * * * *

QUESTION: Here's an example with the stimulus bill of, there was a problem and you and the Democrats, congressional Democrats and House Republicans came together and addressed it —

THE PRESIDENT: I think we'll get it done.

QUESTION: But I wonder, is there either a lesson or do you think this represents any kind of turn in the kind of politics we've seen —

THE PRESIDENT: I think the issue was — the issue of our economy is so meaningful at this moment that it served as a catalyst for all of us to come together. It's so apparent and the issue needs to be addressed quickly and everybody knows that. You know, I would hope this would lead to a spirit of working together — we'll see; some of these issues are very contentious. I, of course, will be bringing up the FISA issue in the State of the Union. And that's a hard issue for some members up there. On the other hand, it's an important issue for the country's security and we need to get it done quickly.

So it think it depends on the issue, frankly.

QUESTION: Of those two issues that you've now mentioned — tax cuts, making the tax cuts permanent, and FISA, which gets into the sort of tools of the war on terror — the two most paramount issues for you, not only in '08, taxes and the war on terror, tools for the war on terror, but do you feel that that's what ought to be the Republican message going forward?

THE PRESIDENT: I do. I think that Republicans need to make clear to the American people they're not going to raise their taxes. And one of the — the theme, one of the themes from this speech — and you know, and be strong in the war on terror — but the theme of this speech is that it's important for government to trust in our citizens. It's the collective wisdom of our citizens that should have our trust when it comes to making policy. That's an important theme for the Republican Party. And that's why the tax cut message is important, because it reinforces that theme, and happens to be good economics.

And so I do — I think the theme of trusting the American people with their own money or health care decisions, or trusting parents with strong accountability in public schools is an important theme for our candidates.

QUESTION: And also — does that apply to the presidential campaign?

THE PRESIDENT: Yes, I believe — I think it's the cornerstone of the Republican Party. And from what I can see, our candidates articulating that one way or the other.

QUESTION: We had a story today on the Republican coalition that said that the next Republican President may have a coalition that's different than the Reagan-Bush coalition that's been so durable for a couple decades.

THE PRESIDENT: I think we're just — that would be — that's the kind of question you're going to have to ask me after I'm President, because I think it's too early to speculate about how the '08 fall campaign is going to shake out.

The primary season gives you one indication of how the campaigns are going to evolve, but it takes a while for all of us who are interested in the political process and who watch it from years of experience to see that this is going to be different than previous campaigns. It will definitely be different. Obviously the candidates will be different, the times are different. But whether the coalitions can be different, it's just to early to tell, as far as I'm concerned.

QUESTION: Do you feel the combination of monetary and fiscal policy that has happened now, including the stimulus package — presuming it goes through — is enough to give the American public confidence in the economy, and will be that be a major part —

THE PRESIDENT: I think that — first of all, I do have confidence in the economy now.



QUESTION: I'm wondering about the public.

THE PRESIDENT: Well, and I think a lot of the people who analyze the economy have confidence that this economy is going to continue to grow. The issue is the uncertainty of the moment. And one thing is for certain, that the Fed, independent of the administration, and the administration and the Congress have both reacted very quickly, in substantial ways, that should provide an insurance, should help us through this period of uncertainty.

QUESTION: What are the odds you think the tax cuts will be made permanent?

THE PRESIDENT: The odds are a hundred percent I'm going to call for it. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay, that one doesn't count. (Laughter.)

What's it like — you've been in this office for seven years; this is the last State of the Union address that you'll give. Does it feel wistful? Or is there — how would you say it feels —

THE PRESIDENT: It's hard to tell, Susan; we've got so much going on. You really look at the world — you've got Iraq, Iran, Middle Eastern peace opportunities, North Korea, Sudan, Burma. This is a world that is full of opportunities to spread freedom and hope and opportunity. And that's what America is doing.

And so I really haven't had a chance to be reflective about what the last State of the Union may mean. I can't tell you if I stand up there and say to myself, here I am, the last State of the Union, and some kind of emotion washes over me. I doubt that's going to be the case, since I'll be — my point is, I'm so focused on the job, I'll be focused on the speech. You know, the interesting this, as I've described to you, is that I am now an observer of a political process for which I was an active participant for 14 years, I guess. And "observer" isn't the right word, because I am raising a lot of money for the Republican Party, and obviously will be doing the grassroots work that is needed, as the head of the party.

On the other hand, I'm not in the campaign. I'm not out there shaking those hands and doing the town hall meetings. And I won't — I'm sure I'll do some big rallies, but not like those rallies when you're a candidate. Coming down the stretch, there's nothing like it; walking in front of 30,000 people, and you just got that sense of — you get that sense of purpose, and you know that people are counting on you to carry the ticket home. That won't be happening to me.

But I also am a person that I don't get — I don't mourn for something that I know that's not possible. And when it's all said and done, I will have finished it with all my soul and all my might, and will go do something different.

But there will be plenty of times for reflection on the job. Twelve months is a long time for a President, and this — and we'll get a lot done, and we'll be dealing with a lot of problems. And the State of the Union is a chance for me to say to the American people, I'm going to finish strong, and I want to work with Congress to do it. There's some unfinished business and some new ideas, and let's get after it.

END 2:10 P.M. ET

    Transcript of Bush interview, UT, 25.1.2008, http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2008-01-25-bush-transcript_N.htm






In Global Battle on AIDS, Bush Creates Legacy


January 5, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — Dr. Jean W. Pape did not know what to expect in early January 2003, when he slipped away from his work treating AIDS patients in Haiti and flew to Washington for a secret meeting with President Bush.

Mr. Bush was considering devoting billions to combat global AIDS, a public health initiative unparalleled in size and scope. The deliberations had been tightly carried out; even the health secretary was left out early on. If President Bush was going to shock the world — and skeptical Republicans — with a huge expenditure of American cash to send expensive drugs overseas, he wanted it to be well spent.

“He said, ‘I will hold you accountable, because this is a big move, this is an important thing that I’ve been thinking about for a long time,’” recalled Dr. Pape, one of several international AIDS experts Mr. Bush consulted. “We indicated to him that our arms are totally broken as physicians, knowing that there are things we could do if we had the drugs.”

Nearly five years later, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief — Pepfar, for short — may be the most lasting bipartisan accomplishment of the Bush presidency.

With a year left in office, Mr. Bush confronts an America bitterly split over the war in Iraq. His domestic achievements, the tax cuts and education reform, are not fully embraced by Democrats, and his second-term legislative agenda — revamping Social Security and immigration policy — lies in ruins.

The global AIDS program is a rare exception. So far, roughly 1.4 million AIDS patients have received lifesaving medicine paid for with American dollars, up from 50,000 before the initiative. Even Mr. Bush’s most ardent foes, among them Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, his 2004 Democratic challenger, find it difficult to argue with the numbers.

“It’s a good thing that he wanted to spend the money,” said Mr. Kerry, an early proponent of legislation similar to the plan Mr. Bush adopted. “I think it represents a tremendous accomplishment for the country.”

Announced in the 2003 State of the Union address, the plan called for $15 billion for AIDS prevention, treatment and care, concentrating on 15 hard-hit nations in Africa and the Caribbean. An enthusiastic Congress has already approved $19 billion.

Mr. Bush is pressing for a new five-year commitment of $30 billion. He will travel to Africa in February to make his case — and, the White House hopes, burnish the compassionate conservative side of his legacy.

Despite the effort, there are still 33 million people living with H.I.V., and the United Nations estimates that there were 1.7 million new infections in 2007 in sub-Saharan Africa alone. Critics, including Mr. Kerry, are particularly incensed by the requirement that one-third of the prevention funds be spent teaching abstinence, despite a lack of scientific consensus that such programs reduce the spread of H.I.V.

When a Ugandan AIDS activist, Beatrice Were, denounced the abstinence-only approach at an international AIDS conference last year, she received a standing ovation. Paul Zeitz, executive director of the Global AIDS Alliance, an advocacy group here in Washington, says the Bush program has been hamstrung by “ideologically driven policies.”

That assessment was echoed, in more diplomatic terms, by the independent Institute of Medicine, which evaluated the program in March. It called on Congress to abandon the abstinence requirement and to lift the ban on paying for clean needles for drug addicts, among other changes.

Yet the institute concluded that, over all, the program had made “a promising start.” And when they step back, even critics like Mr. Zeitz concede that Mr. Bush spawned a philosophical revolution. In one striking step, he put to rest the notion that because patients were poor or uneducated they did not deserve, or could not be taught to use, medicine that could mean the difference between life and death.

In Haiti, about 13,000 patients are now receiving anti-retroviral drugs. That is only half the estimated 26,000 who need them, but far more than the 100 being treated five years ago. “A huge success story,” Dr. Pape says, “beyond my imagination.”

In Uganda, a country already far along on its own AIDS initiative when Mr. Bush began his, 110,000 people are under treatment, and 2 million have H.I.V. tests each year, up from 10,000 treated and 400,000 tested before, according to Dr. Alex Coutinho, a top AIDS expert there. The money comes mostly from Pepfar, but also from a United Nations fund to which the United States contributes.

Dr. Coutinho said Ugandans were terrified that when Mr. Bush left office, “the Bush fund,” as they call it, would go with him. “When I’ve traveled in the U.S., I’m amazed at how little people know about what Pepfar stands for,” he said. “Just because it has been done under Bush, it is not something the country should not be proud of.”

The story of how a conservative Republican president became a crusader against global AIDS is an unlikely one. Mr. Bush ran for the White House in 2000 with what Joshua B. Bolten, his chief of staff, calls “a Republican’s skepticism about the efficacy of foreign aid.” He talked of letting “Africa solve Africa’s problems.” But a variety of forces conspired to put the international AIDS epidemic on the new president’s agenda.

Colin L. Powell, then the new secretary of state, was deeply troubled by demographics showing that in some African nations, AIDS threatened to wipe out the entire child-bearing population — a condition that could create instability, and a climate ripe for terrorism. Just weeks into his new job, he called Tommy G. Thompson, the new administration’s health and human services secretary.

“I said, ‘Tommy, this is not just a health matter, this is a national security matter,’” Mr. Powell recalled. They vowed to work together, and the president, Mr. Powell said, “bought into it immediately.” Yet, little was done at first, infuriating advocates like Mr. Zeitz.

By 2002, though, Christian conservatives, a core component of Mr. Bush’s political base, began adopting the cause. Jesse Helms, the conservative Republican senator from North Carolina, declared himself ashamed that he had not done more. Bill Frist, a physician who was then a Republican senator from Tennessee, was badgering Mr. Bush about the epidemic. So was Bono, the rock star. Generic drugs were slashing the costs for treatment.

In the spring of that year, Mr. Bush sent Mr. Thompson and the government’s top AIDS expert, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, to Africa “to try to scope out anything we could do in a humanitarian way,” Dr. Fauci said.

They came back and proposed $500 million to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the disease. The president approved, Dr. Fauci said, but told them to think bigger.

“He wanted to do something game-changing,” Mr. Bolten said. “Something that, instead of at the margins assuaging everybody’s conscience, might actually change the trajectory of this disease which, from the reports we were getting, was headed to destroy a whole continent.”

Mr. Bolten, Dr. Fauci and a handful of others spent eight months quietly planning. Inside the White House, Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser, favored the program.

But there was resistance from those who thought it “problematic to be announcing a lot of money for foreigners,” said Michael J. Gerson, Mr. Bush’s former speechwriter. Opponents waged an 11th-hour attempt to strip the announcement from the State of the Union address. Mr. Bush overruled them.

With the United States about to invade Iraq, some theorized that Mr. Bush was trying to soften the nation’s image. Not so, says Mr. Gerson, who calls the initiative “foreign policy moralism.” But he does see a link: “It fit a broader conception of his view of America’s purpose in the world, which included not just the liberation of other people, but their treatment for disease.”

The goals were ambitious: to treat 2 million people, prevent 7 million new infections and provide care for 10 million, including orphans and other children considered at risk, over five years, beginning in 2004 when the money became available.

The prevention targets will not be measured until 2010. But Dr. Mark Dybul, Mr. Bush’s global AIDS coordinator, says the program is on track to meet its goals. In addition to drugs for 1.4 million, the government says it has provided care for nearly 6.7 million people affected by the disease, including 2.7 million orphans and other children. Drugs provided to pregnant women have spared an estimated 152,000 infants from infection, the government says.

Some AIDS experts say the money could be spent more efficiently. Yet the fight is not over whether to reauthorize the program, but how. Much of the money has been channeled through American religious-based organizations, drawing criticism from people like Dr. Coutinho of Uganda, who say local control would cut costs.

Citing the current infection rate, advocates say $50 billion is needed, not $30 billion as Mr. Bush has proposed. Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is also calling for $50 billion, as is Dr. Coutinho.

“Unless Pepfar is reauthorized at a much higher level,” Dr. Coutinho said, “we are going to be in the business of playing God.”

At the White House, AIDS advocacy has become a family affair. Laura Bush made her third trip to Africa last year, and the president’s daughter Jenna chronicled the life of a young H.I.V.-positive woman in a new book.

Mr. Bush announced his trip to Africa in conjunction with World AIDS Day in November, quoting from Deuteronomy: “I have set before you life and death ... Therefore, choose life.”

On that day, the North Portico of the White House was festooned with a huge red ribbon, the symbol of the fight against the epidemic. Even Mr. Zeitz took it as a promising sign.

    In Global Battle on AIDS, Bush Creates Legacy, NYT, 5.1.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/05/washington/05aids.html?hp






Bush Ponders Move to Bolster Economy


January 4, 2008
The New York Times


WASHINGTON — President Bush said Thursday that he was considering whether to propose a stimulus package to shore up the economy, the clearest indication yet of a growing concern inside the White House over rising oil prices, the subprime mortgage crisis and the possibility of recession.

“I’m concerned about people losing their homes and paying a lot for gasoline,” Mr. Bush said in an interview with Reuters.

Asked if he intended to do anything more to help people stay in their homes, the president volunteered the idea of an economic stimulus package, although he said he had not made up his mind and would probably not do so until sometime around his State of the Union address, which he delivers on Jan. 28.

“In terms of any stimulus package, we’re considering all options,” Mr. Bush said.

He and his aides “are listening to a lot of good ideas from different people,” he said, adding that “we’ve got our people out there carefully not only monitoring the situation, but listening to ways — possible remedies.”

White House officials would not discuss the options under consideration and said the president was unlikely to make any decision about whether to offer a package, much less what it might entail, until after he returns from a weeklong trip to the Middle East that begins next Tuesday.

But it is a safe bet that tax cuts, long a centerpiece of the Bush domestic agenda, would be a feature of any administration initiative. And it is an equally safe bet that Democrats, who are contemplating their own economic stimulus package, would object, saying further tax cuts are unaffordable.

Mr. Bush plans to meet Friday with his working group on financial markets, a panel that includes Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and Ben S. Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve. The Fed cut interest rates three times last year, and minutes of its most recent meeting show that some of its members believe rates may have to be cut again to curb the uncertainty in the credit and housing markets, disquiet that in turn could depress consumer spending.

Mr. Bush has repeatedly said economic fundamentals are strong, a theme he is likely to echo Monday in Chicago when he delivers a speech on the economy. But with polls showing that the economy has eclipsed Iraq as the leading concern among voters, and with Democrats warning of a “Bush recession,” it has become increasingly apparent that inside the White House, there is a growing feeling that he cannot leave the economy to its own devices in his final year as president.

Speaking to reporters aboard Air Force One on the way back from Crawford, Tex., on Tuesday, Mr. Bush’s counselor, Ed Gillespie, said one of the president’s top priorities this year would be making his tax cuts permanent. But Mr. Gillespie also went on to hint that the administration might do even more.

“We shouldn’t have the economy and consumers and investors wonder whether or not those tax cuts will expire; that’s not healthy at a time when we cannot take economic growth for granted,” Mr. Gillespie said, before adding, “We’ll do what we think is appropriate to continue to foster economic growth.”

Though Mr. Gillespie said he was not prepared to “unveil any policy,” Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the second-ranking House Republican, told reporters last month that a stimulus package seemed likely.

“You have President Clinton’s secretary of the Treasury and President Bush both talking about an economic stimulus package,” Mr. Blunt said, referring to Lawrence H. Summers, who has advocated tax cuts to bolster the economy. “There’s more likely to develop some kind of consensus around that, and my belief is the president intends to head in that direction as well.”

Bush Ponders Move to Bolster Economy, NYT, 4.1.2008, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/04/washington/04bush.html




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