The State of the Union

Wednesday, January 21, 2004



America is a state of moral dissarray.
We are engaged in an immoral war by an adminstration that lied to us and the world. We are using the cloak of "compassionate conservatism" to turn our back on our social responsibilities to the poor. We are allowing our nation to be turned into a police state. Our President encourages hatred for certain classes of people such as homosexuals. Racism persists and racial profiling by police continues while affimative action is rolled back under this adminstration.
All the while, the old issues of drugs, pornography, high divorce rates, and so forth continue to fester and the President offers false dichotomies, shiboleths, slogans and false scapegoats as solutions.
It's been a very busy day at work today with some overtime put in and I still have things to do this evening.
Yet, I also wanted to post my thoughts on Bush's overall state of the union message last night. I've been so busy that I haven't had time to read other thoughts, and what I am posting right now is very rushed and un-edited. I may come back later and clean it all up or make additions.
Transcript: State of the Union address Published: January 21 2004 3:32 | Last Updated: January 21 2004 5:24 Copied from The Financial Times, with my commentary in blockquote and blue font.

"Mr Speaker, vice-president Cheney, members of Congress, distinguished guests and fellow citizens:

America this evening is a nation called to great responsibilities. And we are rising to meet them.

As we gather tonight, hundreds of thousands of American servicemen and women are deployed across the world in the war on terror. By bringing hope to the oppressed, and delivering justice to the violent, they are making America more secure.

Each day, law enforcement personnel and intelligence officers are tracking terrorist threats; analysts are examining airline passenger lists; the men and women of our new Homeland Security Department are patrolling our coasts and borders. And their vigilance is protecting America.
Our servicemen and women deserve praise for their courage and loyalty to America, and their willingeness to lay down their lives to protect the American people. I support our troops and want to see them return home safely as quickly as possible. I applaud the honor and dignity they try to show the people of Iraq under difficult circumstances. While I have no beef with the American servicemen and women, it is not unpatriotic to question the decision to go to war in the first place. Will the conquest of Iraq really make America safe, and have our leaders made decisions that are just?
The Gospels record that Jesus Christ explicitly taught that the one who lives by the sword will die by the sword (Matthew 26:52). It is not Christian belief that peace comes through armed conflict. Indeed, in the current situation, it was U.S. backing of people like Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden in the 1980's that bred the terrorism we deal with today. If history is any indicator of what will happen in the future, we must question the decisions of realpolitik that has lead the United States to unilaterally intervene in the affairs of other nations with an arrogant attitude that we know better how to solve their problems than the people of these other nations.
It is U.S. foreign policy over decades that has created the havok in Iraq, and it seems improbable that the United States understands the situation in Iraq well enough to guide the region to stability. For this reason, many people warned the President prior to war that we should not wage war without a concrete and long term plan to rebuild the nation with international support. We have failed to do this, and the President seems intent on maintaining the course of self-destruction.
America and the world are not safer from terrorism today than we were yesterday. We are more vulnerable than ever because the self-righteous will of arrogant leaders in America has stirred the ire of the entire world such that even civilized countries such France and Germany would be hesitant to help us if another terrorism attack occurs on American soil.
Regarding the issue of our law enforcement protecting our borders, it is ludicrous to believe that every psycopath bent on killing innocent civilians can be stopped by law enforcement alone. Law enforcement agencies are one necessary vehicle, but we also need to seek to undertsand the root causes of terrorism and to win our enemies over by finding win-win alternatives to violence. I know that saying this will upset some people by stirring our deepest fears. We must face the truth. Terrorism will not be solved by force alone without a grave loss of the very freedom we seek to defend.
If we are going to truly stop terrorism, we must begin to foster a culture of respect for life at home and abroad. This means adopting a consistent ethic of life that would exclude the doctrine of pre-emptive war, repealing the use of federal death penalties (and all death penalty), repealing the Patriot Act, supporting some forms of gun control, limit or prohibit abortion and euthanasia, and so forth. Positively, we also need to seek international support in our efforts, and actively work to better understand other cultures. We need to promote peace through providing international aid rather than the use of force.
We are not tackling the root of the problem of terrorism until we tackle the attitude that violence solves problems. It doesn't - and until we admit this, terrorism will continue to be a threat everywhere in the world.
Americans are proving once again to be the hardest working people in the world. The American economy is growing stronger. The tax relief you passed is working.
This statement is empirically verifiable. American productivity per hour has reached unprecedented levels. People are working harder, smarter, more ethically, and longer than ever before. The American people can and should take great pride in our hard work.
Yet, the American worker has seen little return on the investment of sweat equity that she or he has made in the last two years. Many people have worked smarter, harder, and longer only to see their pay remain flat or even decreased. Unions have completely lost their voice in American business. We are beginning to see for the first time in almost a century a class or working people who live in poverty. Unemployment has been the constant threat of corporate America to the employee who simply wants to work a forty hour week, rather than constant undocumented overtime. We are not being paid what Pope John Paul II has called "a living wage", which is a wage to an individual worker that would support the entire family.
Tonight, members of Congress can take pride in great works of compassion and reform that sceptics had thought impossible. You are raising the standards of our public schools and you are giving our senior citizens prescription drug coverage under Medicare.
Regarding raising standards in public schools, the Bush administration has cut funding to one of the most succesfull education programs ever: Headstart. They have also cut funding to school lunch programs.
Regarding Medicare, staunch conservative Republicans have criticized the recently passed medicare plan as an entitlement program - the largest ever passed. Democrats have criticized the program as not going far enough to save Medicare. Our taxes are lower than they have been for decades, lower even than under Reagan.
Everyone knows that Medicare remains in trouble. The question for the Bush adminstration that liberals ask is why we cannot repeal some of his tax cuts to increase the entitlement to Medicare. Bush supporters want this question swept under the rug by claiming they have done enough.
We have faced serious challenges together - and now we face a choice. We can go forward with confidence and resolve - or we can turn back to the dangerous illusion that terrorists are not plotting and outlaw regimes are no threat to us. We can press on with economic growth, and reforms in education and Medicare - or we can turn back to the old policies and old divisions.
The case is not a black and white issue of either being for Bush or for the status quo. The issue is that there are better plans out there than Bush's so-called "compassionate conservatism".
We have not come all this way - through tragedy, and trial, and war - only to falter and leave our work unfinished. Americans are rising to the tasks of history, and they expect the same of us. In their efforts, their enterprise and their character, the American people are showing that the state of our Union is confident and strong.

Our greatest responsibility is the active defence of the American people. Twenty-eight months have passed since September 11 2001 - over two years without an attack on American soil - and it is tempting to believe that the danger is behind us. That hope is understandable, comforting and false. The killing has continued in Bali, Jakarta, Casablanca, Riyadh, Mombassa, Jerusalem, Istanbul and Baghdad. The terrorists continue to plot against America and the civilised world. And by our will and courage, this danger will be defeated.
I applaud Bush's reference to the efforts of the American people. More than the adminstration itself, the American people have shown great fortitude, strength, and resiliency - and even heroism - since the days of September 11, 2001. Bush is also correct that the threat of terrorism is not behind us. However, he is wrong on the solution to terrorism.
We cannot resolve terrorism by becoming terrorist. The doctrine of pre-emptive war is based on the same logic by which Hussein justified attacks on the Kurds.
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect for the Sacred Congregation of the Faith, warned American leaders and American Catholics prior to going to war that pre-emptive war is not in the Catechism. There never has been a war of aggression that is considered a just war, and there never will be - and there is no circumstance that justifies a war of aggression.
Furthermore, the Holy Father has been very clear that terrorism is an issue of international crime, and therefore needs to be dealt with through international agencies, such as the United Nations. One of the criteria for a just war is that it is authorized by the proper authority. The United States is not morally or ethically authorized to wage a war to enforce United Nations resolutions any more than the state of Texas can act on its own and declare war on Mexico without Federal Congressional support.
To add to the issues with this war, our shock and awe tactics have killed civilians, and may have violated the principle of proportionality in waging war. Even though Americans generally believe these deaths were unintentional, and they probably were, the death of these civilians has fueled the terrorist argument that their own means are no different than ours.
Whether the terrorist are "right" or wrong in their perception, their perception is itself a reality!
This perception has spread throughout the Arab world, and it will be very difficult to stop terrorists from recruiting new members as long as the perception persists. Every attempt to frighten people into submission will further stir anger, because fear and anger are the same emotion. When backed into a corner, every animal on earth goes into fight or flight mode - same emotion, different defense mechanism.
The Arab world is angry with us and fearful of us, and is not viewing us as "liberators". Note that the list of places where terrorism persists in Bush's speech is primarily in Arab nations against American targets, or in Muslim nations who consider themselves allies of the Arab world by religion and culture.
Among the issues important to Arabs is Israel. I believe that Israel has every right to exist and exercise appropriate self-defense. The U.N. made this clear for very good reasons. I also believe that the Bible can be interpreted by the believer to say that the nation of Israel would be restored and last until the end times. God's promises to Israel were not revoked.
However, Ariel Sharon and some of his predecesors have violated human rights in the occupied territories with U.S. backing. God does not condone the violation of human rights, even when his chosen people do it. It is not antisemitic to demand that Israel act with integrity and honor. Israel needs to withdraw from some areas and treat Palestinians with human dignity. The U.S. can and should pressure Israel to act rightly, even as we condemn terrorism committed by Palestinians. Israel is very dependant on us, and we have the means to apply the right pressure to foster peace. We should also seek to offer positive encouragement (such as humanitarian aid and business opportunities) to Palestinians who cooperate in the peace process.
Might does not make us right.
The violation of human rights under the Patriot Act will spur greater fear and resentment as word gets out of unjust detainment of innocent Arab Americans. We are fearful of Arabs because of the events of September 11, 2001, and they are fearful of us because of a long history of English and American interference in their affairs culiminating in conquest of two nations. We have nothing to fear but fear itself!
The only way to peace is to stop threatening one another and begin to understand one another, and anyone who does not join in efforts to create peace is supporting terrorism - especially G.W. Bush! We are not safer today than we were before the Iraq invasion, and we will not be safer until we, the people, remove G.W. Bush from power!

Inside the United States, where the war began, we must continue to give homeland security and law enforcement personnel every tool they need to defend us. And one of those essential tools is the Patriot Act, which allows federal law enforcement to better share information, to track terrorists, to disrupt their cells and to seize their assets. For years, we have used similar provisions to catch embezzlers and drug traffickers. If these methods are good for hunting criminals, they are even more important for hunting terrorists. Key provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire next year. The terrorist threat will not expire on that schedule. Our law enforcement needs this vital legislation to protect our citizens - you need to renew the Patriot Act.
The Patirot Act has lead to many violations of our 200 year old Constitution. People have been arrested and placed in solitary confinement without legal representation. Due process has been ignored. Some people have been shipped to foreign countries to be tortured by proxy, and it was later discovered they were innocent all along. The Patriot Act is the most unpatriotic law ever passed. Every American should be sickened by it and demand its immediate repeal!
America is on the offensive against the terrorists who started this war. Last March, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a mastermind of September 11, awoke to find himself in the custody of US and Pakistani authorities. Last August 11t brought the capture of the terrorist Hambali, who was a key player in the attack in Indonesia that killed over 200 people. We are tracking al-Qaida around the world - and nearly two-thirds of their known leaders have now been captured or killed. Thousands of very skilled and determined military personnel are on a manhunt, going after the remaining killers who hide in cities and caves - and, one by one, we will bring the terrorists to justice.

As part of the offensive against terror, we are also confronting the regimes that harbour and support terrorists, and could supply them with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. The United States and our allies are determined: We refuse to live in the shadow of this ultimate danger.

The first to see our determination were the Taliban, who made Afghanistan the primary training base of al-Qaida killers. As of this month, that country has a new constitution, guaranteeing free elections and full participation by women. Businesses are opening, health care centers are being established, and the boys and girls of Afghanistan are back in school. With help from the new Afghan Army, our coalition is leading aggressive raids against surviving members of the Taliban and al-Qaida. The men and women of Afghanistan are building a nation that is free, and proud, and fighting terror - and America is honoured to be their friend.
This final statement of being honored to be friends of Afghanistan is almost humorous comming from a man who claimed in public that a candidate for President of the United States did not need to know who was running Afghanistan. G.W. Bush is ignorant of world politics and the mind-set of those raised outside of our borders. Bush's arrogant attitude that he doesn't need to bother with understanding other cultures is getting and is going to get Americans killed!
Since we last met in this chamber, combat forces of the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Poland and other countries enforced the demands of the United Nations, ended the rule of Saddam Hussein - and the people of Iraq are free. Having broken the Baathist regime, we face a remnant of violent Saddam supporters. Men who ran away from our troops in battle are now dispersed and attack from the shadows.

These killers, joined by foreign terrorists, are a serious, continuing danger. Yet we are making progress against them. The once all-powerful ruler of Iraq was found in a hole, and now sits in a prison cell. Of the top 55 officials of the former regime, we have captured or killed 45. Our forces are on the offensive, leading over 1,600 patrols a day, and conducting an average of 180 raids every week. We are dealing with these thugs in Iraq, just as surely as we dealt with Saddam Hussein's evil regime.
If a foreign power invaded America, would those who fought back, even after major battle ended, be called "terrorists" and "killers"?
We'd call them "fredom fighters". The Iraqi people have every right to fight against foreign invaders. We are foreign invaders from the point of view of even those Iraqi's who might like us!
I point out this obvious fact so we can all see how Bush manipulates language.
The work of building a new Iraq is hard, and it is right. And America has always been willing to do what it takes for what is right. Last January, Iraq's only law was the whim of one brutal man. Today our coalition is working with the Iraqi Governing Council to draft a basic law, with a bill of rights. We are working with Iraqis and the United Nations to prepare for a transition to full Iraqi sovereignty by the end of June. As democracy takes hold in Iraq, the enemies of freedom will do all in their power to spread violence and fear. They are trying to shake the will of our country and our friends - but the United States of America will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins. The killers will fail, and the Iraqi people will live in freedom.

Month by month, Iraqis are assuming more responsibility for their own security and their own future. And tonight we are honored to welcome one of Iraq's most respected leaders: the current President of the Iraqi Governing Council, Adnan Pachachi. Sir, America stands with you and the Iraqi people as you build a free and peaceful nation.

Because of American leadership and resolve, the world is changing for the better. Last month, the leader of Libya voluntarily pledged to disclose and dismantle all of his regime's weapons of mass destruction programmes, including a uranium enrichment project for nuclear weapons. Col Gadhafi correctly judged that his country would be better off, and far more secure, without weapons of mass murder. Nine months of intense negotiations involving the United States and Great Britain succeeded with Libya, while 12 years of diplomacy with Iraq did not. And one reason is clear: For diplomacy to be effective, words must be credible - and no one can now doubt the word of America.
Let's see here....The Bush administration has admitted that there was no smoking gun pointing to WMD's in Iraq. They've admitted that there is no concrete evidence tying Iraq to Al Queda. They've admitted that the so-called "immanent danger" of Iraq was really a distant future possible threat. In other words, America stood before the entire United Nations and told a bold faced lie. But our word will never be doubted again. Hmmmm.
Different threats require different strategies. Along with nations in the region, we are insisting that North Korea eliminate its nuclear programme. America and the international community are demanding that Iran meet its commitments and not develop nuclear weapons. America is committed to keeping the world's most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the world's most dangerous regimes.
I am a believer in active non-violent resistance to evil, and with the Pope, I would say that the entire world needs to say no to war and be more creative in thinking about how to make peace. If the same energy that went into the creation of nuclear weapons were devoted to making peace, war would be obsolete and taboo.
This said, if I believed more ardently in just war doctrine, as most Catholics do, and I were not an American, I would want every nation that has nukes to have them aimed at America.
Because the United States has proven itself capable of unjust wars of aggression and conquest, and America has not proven itself capable of making peace.
If I were in the place of Putin or Chirac or a host of other leaders, I would be on the side of North Korea and Iran right now and speak as their defenders. Of course, as an American, I am concerned about North Korea and Iran, and happy that others have not flocked too quickly to defending Iran and North Korea - but they will if we keep pusing.
The way to mitigate against this threat is not through threats and force. The way to mitigate the threat is try ot understand the issues from the North Korean and Iranian point of view, and then try to come up with a win-win strategy for mutual disarmament. If some type of force is necessary, the proper vehicle is the United Nations. There will be naysayers to what I am proposing. Catholic Christian theology says I am right, and the Pope has said as much.
When I came to this rostrum on September 20 2001, I brought the police shield of a fallen officer, my reminder of lives that ended, and a task that does not end. I gave to you and to all Americans my complete commitment to securing our country and defeating our enemies. And this pledge, given by one, has been kept by many. You in the Congress have provided the resources for our defense, and cast the difficult votes of war and peace. Our closest allies have been unwavering. America's intelligence personnel and diplomats have been skilled and tireless.

And the men and women of the American military - they have taken the hardest duty. We have seen their skill and courage in armored charges, and midnight raids, and lonely hours on faithful watch. We have seen the joy when they return, and felt the sorrow when one is lost. I have had the honour of meeting our servicemen and women at many posts, from the deck of a carrier in the Pacific to a mess hall in Baghdad. Many of our troops are listening tonight. And I want you and your families to know: America is proud of you. And my administration, and this Congress, will give you the resources you need to fight and win the war on terror.
The tools our forces need to succeed are not technological or monetary. What we need now to fix the mess we have made is international support from those we blew off. We need the French, German, Russians and Chinese to join us. If we fail to garner this support, we cannot succeed.
I know that some people question if America is really in a war at all. They view terrorism more as a crime - a problem to be solved mainly with law enforcement and indictments. After the World Trade Center was first attacked in 1993, some of the guilty were indicted, tried, convicted and sent to prison. But the matter was not settled. The terrorists were still training and plotting in other nations, and drawing up more ambitious plans. After the chaos and carnage of September 11, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers. The terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States - and war is what they got.
No soveriegn nation declared war on the United States. Terrorism is a criminal act, and law enforcement is the only morally proper vehicle for addressing criminal acts!
Of course, law enforcement alone cannot solve the problem, but that does not mean an unjust war is the solution. America needs to do more to understand other cultures and foster cooperation between nations. Those who refuse to participate in building peace are contributing to terrorism.
Some in this chamber, and in our country, did not support the liberation of Iraq. Objections to war often come from principled motives. But let us be candid about the consequences of leaving Saddam Hussein in power. We are seeking all the facts - already the Kay report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related programme activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations. Had we failed to act, the dictator's weapons of mass destruction programmes would continue to this day. Had we failed to act, Security Council resolutions on Iraq would have been revealed as empty threats, weakening the United Nations and encouraging defiance by dictators around the world. Iraq's torture chambers would still be filled with victims - terrified and innocent. The killing fields of Iraq - where hundreds of thousands of men, women and children vanished into the sands - would still be known only to the killers. For all who love freedom and peace, the world without Saddam Hussein's regime is a better and safer place.
Nobody opposes true freedom for the Iraqi people, and nobody is saying that Saddam Hussein is an innocent victim. Bush is attacking "straw men" in a weak attempt to belittle anyone who questions his strategy.
He admits that those who opposed a unilateral war of aggression are motivated by principles. Immoral action has consequences. The actions of the Bush adminstration are deeply immoral.
I hope with all of my heart that I am wrong, but I am convinced by God's word that Americans will die because of what the Bush adminstration has done. Look at the Bible. Never has it been known that a nation could act with such brazen disregard for justice and not go unpunished!
Some critics have said our duties in Iraq must be internationalised. This particular criticism is hard to explain to our partners in Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Italy, Spain, Poland, Denmark, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, the Netherlands, Norway, El Salvador and the 17 other countries that have committed troops to Iraq. As we debate at home, we must never ignore the vital contributions of our international partners or dismiss their sacrifices. From the beginning, America has sought international support for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we have gained much support. There is a difference, however, between leading a coalition of many nations and submitting to the objections of a few. America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our people.
Just how many troops does El Salvador have in Iraq? How many Poles have died in the war? The President's statement is ludicrous to the extreme. If the primary reason to wage war was to enforce U.N. resolutions, the United Nations must support the decision. Period!
We also hear doubts that democracy is a realistic goal for the greater Middle East, where freedom is rare. Yet it is mistaken, and condescending, to assume that whole cultures and great religions are incompatible with liberty and self-government. I believe that God has planted in every heart the desire to live in freedom. And even when that desire is crushed by tyranny for decades, it will rise again.
Just as the resurrection occurred out of the crucifixion, I do believe that God can bring good out of evil. I honestly hope that democracy will take root in Iraq, and that the Iraqi people will experience freedom.
Nevertheless, it is a fundamental principle of Catholic moral theology that the ends do not justify the means.
The Bush administration violated every principle of just war in the Iraq invasion. The Bush adminstration was warned by secular philosophers familiar with just war theory on purely rational grounds. They were warned by the entire U.S.C.C.B. and the Pope, himself. They were warned by the leaders of almost every religious body in the nation, including Bush's own bishop! Even many military leaders warned Bush on pragmatic grounds that war with Iraq was not a wise decision. Millions of Americans know that the war in Iraq was wrong.
Those of us who are Christians should be somewhat fearful of the divine wrath that befalls a nation that acts so brazenly against natural and divine law!
As long as the Middle East remains a place of tyranny, despair and anger, it will continue to produce men and movements that threaten the safety of America and our friends. So America is pursuing a forward strategy of freedom in the greater Middle East. We will challenge the enemies of reform, confront the allies of terror, and expect a higher standard from our friends. To cut through the barriers of hateful propaganda, the Voice of America and other broadcast services are expanding their programming in Arabic and Persian - and soon, a new television service will begin providing reliable news and information across the region. I will send you a proposal to double the budget of the National Endowment for Democracy, and to focus its new work on the development of free elections, free markets, free press and free labor unions in the Middle East. And above all, we will finish the historic work of democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq, so those nations can light the way for others, and help transform a troubled part of the world.

America is a nation with a mission - and that mission comes from our most basic beliefs. We have no desire to dominate, no ambitions of empire. Our aim is a democratic peace - a peace founded upon the dignity and rights of every man and woman. America acts in this cause with friends and allies at our side, yet we understand our special calling: This great Republic will lead the cause of freedom.
Written statements by Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld prior to and during the Bush Presidency cast doubt on what the President is saying. It is now widely known that many adminstration officials sought war with Iraq as early as 1997 in order to gain American superiority over the emerging European Union. I saw these published reports by these men prior to the war!
Furthermore, Cheney's prior company, Halliburton, has profited from the war. While the American people, and the troops in Iraq may have no selfish and unjust motive, it appears to me and many people within and outside of the United States that Bush is either so stubbornly ignorant that he is being easily manipulated, or he is knowingly lying!
In these last three years, adversity has also revealed the fundamental strengths of the American economy. We have come through recession, and terrorist attack, and corporate scandals, and the uncertainties of war. And because you acted to stimulate our economy with tax relief, this economy is strong, and growing stronger.
Many people, including myself, believed prior to Bush's election that a two to three year recession followed by economic recovery was inevitable during Bush's term. I do not blame Bush for the recession, but I don't praise him for the recovery underway. This is normal business cycles, and Bush should not take credit for it. What he does need to answer is how we can cut taxes and increase spending simultaneoulsy and claim that this is good for the economy?
You have doubled the child tax credit from $500 to a thousand dollars, reduced the marriage penalty, begun to phase out the death tax, reduced taxes on capital gains and stock dividends, cut taxes on small businesses, and you have lowered taxes for every American who pays income taxes.
Tax cuts are obviously going primarily to "the investment class". What will happen to the emerging working poor?
Americans took those dollars and put them to work, driving this economy forward. The pace of economic growth in the third quarter of 2003 was the fastest in nearly 20 years. New home construction: the highest in almost 20 years. Home ownership rates: the highest ever. Manufacturing activity is increasing. Inflation is low. Interest rates are low. Exports are growing. Productivity is high. And jobs are on the rise.
None of this has to do with Bush's tax cuts. Low interest rates could have achieved enough stimulus to keep the economy from total collapse during the recession, and everyone who understands business knows that the cycle was going to take an upswing. In the meantime, while jobs may be rising, unemployment is still at levels unkown during the Clinton adminstration, and the question is what "compassionate conservatives" are doing for these Americans who still can't find a job?
These numbers confirm that the American people are using their money far better than government would have - and you were right to return it.

America's growing economy is also a changing economy. As technology transforms the way almost every job is done, America becomes more productive, and workers need new skills. Much of our job growth will be found in high-skilled fields like health care and biotechnology. So we must respond by helping more Americans gain the skills to find good jobs in our new economy.

All skills begin with the basics of reading and math, which are supposed to be learned in the early grades of our schools. Yet for too long, for too many children, those skills were never mastered. By passing the No Child Left Behind Act, you have made the expectation of literacy the law of our country. We are providing more funding for our schools - a 36 per cent increase since 2001. We are requiring higher standards. We are regularly testing every child on the fundamentals. We are reporting results to parents, and making sure they have better options when schools are not performing. We are making progress toward excellence for every child.
My father was a teacher for well over twenty years. One of the things he hated to hear form students was "Will this be on the test?" His attitude was that learning was for its own sake. What he wanted his students to "learn" was curiosity, critical thinking, the thrill of discovery and creativity.
Sure, there exists a bedrock of fundamental facts and skills that must be acquired in order to reach high levels of critical thinking, but the goal is not to teach people to pass standardized test. I believe that most American teachers want this for their students. American teachers are saying that standardized tests force them to teach to the test, and what students learn is not how to think, but how to pass a test. There is a difference.
Real life is not a standardized test. Real life requires critical thinking, curiosity, discovery and creativity. These are not traits that are easily measured through a standardized test, if it can be done at all.
Bush seems to imply that American teachers are failing our kids because they don't want children to know how to read and write. This is pure absurdity.
Can our education system be improved? Absolutely! But is testing the answer? Probably not. What we need are higher teachers salaries, upgraded computers in inner city schools, facility upgrades, new books, and in some cases, better security on the school grounds.
But the status quo always has defenders. Some want to undermine the No Child Left Behind Act by weakening standards and accountability. Yet the results we require are really a matter of common sense: We expect third-graders to read and do math at third grade level - and that is not asking too much. Testing is the only way to identify and help students who are falling behind.
What we need is teachers who know that their work is appreciated because they are paid a professional salary equivalent to doctors and lawyers - who were educated by teachers to begin with! What we need is safe schools. What we need is updated books and computers. If these things were in place, third graders would read at a third grade level and we would not need a test to prove it!
This nation will not go back to the days of simply shuffling children along from grade to grade without them learning the basics. I refuse to give up on any child - and the No Child Left Behind Act is opening the door of opportunity to all of America's children.

At the same time, we must ensure that older students and adults can gain the skills they need to find work now. Many of the fastest-growing occupations require strong math and science preparation, and training beyond the high school level. So tonight I propose a series of measures called Jobs for the 21st Century. This programme will provide extra help to middle and high school students who fall behind in reading and math, expand advanced placement programs in low-income schools, and invite math and science professionals from the private sector to teach part-time in our high schools. I propose larger Pell grants for students who prepare for college with demanding courses in high school. I propose increasing our support for America's fine community colleges, so they can train workers for the industries that are creating the most new jobs. By all these actions, we will help more and more Americans to join in the growing prosperity of our country.
Larger Pell grants is a good idea, but who will pay for it if we're cutting taxes and spending billions in Iraq. Maybe Bush needs some remedial math classes himself.
As far as private sector support, is the President suggesting that since we know we cannot really afford good teachers, let's ask for volunteers?
Since when has a soup kitchen been a preferred place of dining to a resturaunt for those who have a choice? If you want the best service, you need to pay for it!
Job training is important, and so is job creation. We must continue to pursue an aggressive, pro-growth economic agenda.

Congress has some unfinished business on the issue of taxes. The tax reductions you passed are set to expire. Unless you act, the unfair tax on marriage will go back up. Unless you act, millions of families will be charged $300 more in federal taxes for every child. Unless you act, small businesses will pay higher taxes. Unless you act, the death tax will eventually come back to life. Unless you act, Americans face a tax increase. What the Congress has given, the Congress should not take away: For the sake of job growth, the tax cuts you passed should be permanent.
It should be abundantly clear by now, I don't understand Bush's "fuzzy math". His own father critiqued this sort of "voodoo economics" in the race against Reagan years ago.
Our agenda for jobs and growth must help small business owners and employees with relief from needless federal regulation, and protect them from junk and frivolous lawsuits. Consumers and businesses need reliable supplies of energy to make our economy run - so I urge you to pass legislation to modernise our electricity system, promote conservation and make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy. My administration is promoting free and fair trade, to open up new markets for America's entrepreneurs, and manufacturers, and farmers, and to create jobs for America's workers. Younger workers should have the opportunity to build a nest egg by saving part of their Social Security taxes in a personal retirement account. We should make the Social Security system a source of ownership for the American people.
I was reading an article in Newsweek a couple of issues back about so-called "frivolous law-suits". Americans seem to generally think that huge settlements are driving up the cost of health care and insurance and everything else. Yet, the facts demontsrate otherwise.
The fact is that lost lawsuits are a miniscule loss to the percent of overall revenue for most insurance companies, and change is often only effected through the big win for the plaintiff. Furthermore, these law-suits go before juries of people who inevitably think like the average American. When the case is presented before that jury, the jury gives big awards sometimes.
How do we explain 12 people coming to a unanimous decision that goes against their prior beliefs. Bush is effectively calling juries "stupid". The answer to why we have large settlements at times lies in the fact that sometimes big corporations do evil things that deserve a large punitive settlement.
As far as Bush's statement on Social Security, I am not opposed to having options to invest in a nest egg in addition to a sound Social Security system. I know that everyone fears the aging baby boomers will bankrupt the system, and Bush is deperately trying to find a way for younger workers to have a means to invest in a differnet system that will not be bankrupted. However, wall street is not the answer in light of Enron.
What is the answer?
Part of it may be tax increases and part of it may be some sort of investment options, but Bush is oversimplifying the issue in order to gain the support of corporate America looking for those investment dollars. If you think PACs have too much influence now, wait till the feds mandate a portion of your income go to private investment!
And we should limit the burden of government on this economy by acting as good stewards of taxpayer dollars. In two weeks, I will send you a budget that funds the war, protects the homeland and meets important domestic needs, while limiting the growth in discretionary spending to less than four percent. This will require that Congress focus on priorities, cut wasteful spending and be wise with the people's money. By doing so, we can cut the deficit in half over the next five years.
Fuzzy math again. How is spending going to be limited to a four percent increase while waging global war and increasing education spending?
The facts are that discretionary spending has increased ten percent every year under Bush, and he has majority party support in both houses. Bush is simply lying or incapable of doing simple math. The deficit he is creating for our children is catastrophic.
Tonight I also ask you to reform our immigration laws, so they reflect our values and benefit our economy. I propose a new temporary worker program to match willing foreign workers with willing employers, when no Americans can be found to fill the job. This reform will be good for our economy - because employers will find needed workers in an honest and orderly system. A temporary worker program will help protect our homeland - allowing border patrol and law enforcement to focus on true threats to our national security. I oppose amnesty, because it would encourage further illegal immigration and unfairly reward those who break our laws. My temporary worker programme will preserve the citizenship path for those who respect the law, while bringing millions of hardworking men and women out from the shadows of American life.
This is actually at least one good idea the Bush adminstration is putting forth. The Bible holds hospitality to foreignors as among the highest virtues, and we are a nation of immigrants. It is about time we stopped treating our hardest working people as criminals.
Our nation's health care system, like our economy, is also in a time of change. Amazing medical technologies are improving and saving lives. This dramatic progress has brought its own challenge, in the rising costs of medical care and health insurance. Members of Congress, we must work together to help control those costs and extend the benefits of modern medicine throughout our country.

Meeting these goals requires bipartisan effort - and two months ago, you showed the way. By strengthening Medicare and adding a prescription drug benefit, you kept a basic commitment to our seniors: You are giving them the modern medicine they deserve.

Starting this year, under the law you passed, seniors can choose to receive a drug discount card, saving them 10 to 25 percent off the retail price of most prescription drugs - and millions of low-income seniors can get an additional $600 to buy medicine. Beginning next year, seniors will have new coverage for preventive screenings against diabetes and heart disease, and seniors just entering Medicare can receive wellness exams.

In January of 2006, seniors can get prescription drug coverage under Medicare. For a monthly premium of about $35, most seniors who do not have that coverage today can expect to see their drug bills cut roughly in half. Under this reform, senior citizens will be able to keep their Medicare just as it is, or they can choose a Medicare plan that fits them best? just as you, as members of Congress, can choose an insurance plan that meets your needs. And starting this year, millions of Americans will be able to save money tax-free for their medical expenses, in a health savings account.

I signed this measure proudly, and any attempt to limit the choices of our seniors, or to take away their prescription drug coverage under Medicare, will meet my veto.
This was another good point for the Bush adminstration, and, as mentioned already, the real question is whether we have done enough.
On the critical issue of health care, our goal is to ensure that Americans can choose and afford private health care coverage that best fits their individual needs. To make insurance more affordable, Congress must act to address rapidly rising health care costs. Small businesses should be able to band together and negotiate for lower insurance rates, so they can cover more workers with health insurance - I urge you to pass association health plans. I ask you to give lower-income Americans a refundable tax credit that would allow millions to buy their own basic health insurance. By computerizing health records, we can avoid dangerous medical mistakes, reduce costs, and improve care. To protect the doctor-patient relationship, and keep good doctors doing good work, we must eliminate wasteful and frivolous medical lawsuits. And tonight I propose that individuals who buy catastrophic health care coverage, as part of our new health savings accounts, be allowed to deduct 100 percent of the premiums from their taxes.

A government-run health care system is the wrong prescription. By keeping costs under control, expanding access and helping more Americans afford coverage, we will preserve the system of private medicine that makes America's health care the best in the world.
America's health care system is not necessarily the best in the world. Even China has lower mortality rates for mothers of newborn infants. Canada has a strong and affordable health care system - it is free to any citizen! Canada and Europe have always been competetive with the United States in innovation. Bush is simply catering to corporate interests here. Big money can buy a lot of votes, and as long as you put the right spin on it, nobody notices.
We are living in a time of great change - in our world, in our economy, and in science and medicine. Yet some things endure - courage and compassion, reverence and integrity, respect for differences of faith and race. The values we try to live by never change. And they are instilled in us by fundamental institutions, such as families, and schools, and religious congregations. These institutions - the unseen pillars of civilization - must remain strong in America, and we will defend them.

We must stand with our families to help them raise healthy, responsible children. And when it comes to helping children make right choices, there is work for all of us to do.

One of the worst decisions our children can make is to gamble their lives and futures on drugs. Our government is helping parents confront this problem, with aggressive education, treatment and law enforcement. Drug use in high school has declined by 11 per cent over the past two years. Four hundred thousand fewer young people are using illegal drugs than in the year 2001. In my budget, I have proposed new funding to continue our aggressive, community-based strategy to reduce demand for illegal drugs. Drug testing in our schools has proven to be an effective part of this effort. So tonight I propose an additional $23m for schools that want to use drug testing as a tool to save children's lives. The aim here is not to punish children, but to send them this message: We love you, and we don't want to lose you.
As if the Patriot Act has not violated the Constitution enough, now we are going to drug test children???? Are we living in a police state? There was a time when being Republican was strong anti-communist stance. I always heard that too many turns right turns left. Bush wants to be big brother now!
To help children make right choices, they need good examples. Athletics play such an important role in our society, but, unfortunately, some in professional sports are not setting much of an example. The use of performance-enhancing drugs like steroids in baseball, football and other sports is dangerous, and it sends the wrong message - that there are short cuts to accomplishment, and that performance is more important than character. So tonight I call on team owners, union representatives, coaches and players to take the lead, to send the right signal, to get tough and to get rid of steroids now.

To encourage right choices, we must be willing to confront the dangers young people face - even when they are difficult to talk about. Each year, about 3m teenagers contract sexually transmitted diseases that can harm them, or kill them, or prevent them from ever becoming parents. In my budget, I propose a grass-roots campaign to help inform families about these medical risks. We will double federal funding for abstinence programmes, so schools can teach this fact of life: Abstinence for young people is the only certain way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases. Decisions children make now can affect their health and character for the rest of their lives. All of us - parents, schools, government - must work together to counter the negative influence of the culture, and to send the right messages to our children.
Hardly anyone would argue that we should not do more to encourage our youth to stay away from drugs or dangerous sex. Where there is controversy is that we know that we will never have 100 percent of young people living drug free and chaste lives. Democrats and other Americans would like to see some "back-up plans" that include condom education and distribution, and some basic respect for the rights of young people.
As a Catholic, I confess that I am uncomfortable with promoting unchastity in any way. Nevertheless, Bush's statements are not realistic, and people could die.
At a deeper level, Bush is either using religious sounding language with no implementation plan to garner votes, or he is serious. If the former, he violates the second commandment. If he is serious, he is proposing that we live the way the Taliban encouraged, where certain things are forbidden to be mentioned based on religious belief. I am a religious person, but this is not what religious people should seek.
We need to encourage moral choices - but when those choices are personal choices, rather than choices about the direction of the nation, those choices must be free if they are to have moral value in the sight of God. Separation of Church and State actually benefits the Church. If we do not force our personal beliefs and personal practices on the non-believer, we can demand that they not force their personal beliefs and personal practices on us.
I know this is difficult for believers to wholehearteldy accept, but I think it is prefereable to God and beneficial to our churches as organizations if we permit some personal sins under secular law, and rely more on the power of prayer, example and persuasion to entice personal moral behavior that does not violate the rights of another person. Where we should focus our moral outrage in politics is not on personal sins, but social sin: such as an unjust war, corporate ethics, a culture of death, consumerism, and so forth.
A strong America must also value the institution of marriage. I believe we should respect individuals as we take a principled stand for one of the most fundamental, enduring institutions of our civilization. Congress has already taken a stand on this issue by passing the Defense of Marriage Act, signed in 1996 by President Clinton. That statute protects marriage under federal law as the union of a man and a woman, and declares that one state may not redefine marriage for other states. Activist judges, however, have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives. On an issue of such great consequence, the people's voice must be heard. If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process. Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage.
How many heterosexual marriages are going to dissoleve because a gay couple enters a legal union?
Honestly, the uproar about this is beyond all proportion. I wonder sometimes if some Americans are under the impression that the courts rules that gay unions are sacramental unions that must be celebrated in a church. If this is what people believe, it's wrong. The courts made rulings about legal unions that go before a justice of the peace or other civil body authorized to register a marriage union. The rulings have to do with equal protection under the law and discrimination. There is no rational legal reason that a civil union between two men or two women should not enjoy the same legal status as a union between a man and a woman.
The outcome of this debate is important - and so is the way we conduct it. The same moral tradition that defines marriage also teaches that each individual has dignity and value in God's sight.

It is also important to strengthen our communities by unleashing the compassion of America's religious institutions. Religious charities of every creed are doing some of the most vital work in our country - mentoring children, feeding the hungry, taking the hand of the lonely. Yet government has often denied social service grants and contracts to these groups, just because they have a cross or Star of David or crescent on the wall. By executive order, I have opened billions of dollars in grant money to competition that includes faith-based charities. Tonight I ask you to codify this into law, so people of faith can know that the law will never discriminate against them again.
What Bush did through his "faith based initiative" was to take a social responsibility that belongs to the entire American people, and he cut the spending on those communal responsibilities by finding a way to get volunteers to do the work that used ot go to paid government employees.
I am all for volunteerism. Every Christian should be involved in some sort of volunteer ministry. However, the federal government has responsibilities to the American people on top of volunteer work. Those positions should be budgeted and paid! Anything less is an injustice.
In the past, we have worked together to bring mentors to the children of prisoners, and provide treatment for the addicted, and help for the homeless. Tonight I ask you to consider another group of Americans in need of help. This year, some 600,000 inmates will be released from prison back into society. We know from long experience that if they can't find work, or a home, or help, they are much more likely to commit more crimes and return to prison. So tonight, I propose a four-year, $300m Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative to expand job training and placement services, to provide transitional housing, and to help newly released prisoners get mentoring, including from faith-based groups. America is the land of the second chance - and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.
The idea of helping prisoners is a good one. I worked in a federal penitentiary as a GED instructor and counselor during my seminary training, and I know how difficult it can be for former prison residents to re-adjust to society. Is $3M enough?
For all Americans, the last three years have brought tests we did not ask for, and achievements shared by all.

By our actions, we have shown what kind of nation we are. In grief, we found the grace to go on. In challenge, we rediscovered the courage and daring of a free people. In victory, we have shown the noble aims and good heart of America. And having come this far, we sense that we live in a time set apart.

I have been a witness to the character of the American people, who have shown calm in times of danger, compassion for one another, and toughness for the long haul. All of us have been partners in a great enterprise. And even some of the youngest understand that we are living in historic times. Last month a girl in Lincoln, Rhode Island, sent me a letter. It began, "Dear George W. Bush: If there is anything you know, I, Ashley Pearson, age 10, can do to help anyone, please send me a letter and tell me what I can do to save our country." She added this PS: "If you can send a letter to the troops - please put, 'Ashley Pearson believes in you.'"

Tonight, Ashley, your message to our troops has just been conveyed. And yes, you have some duties yourself. Study hard in school, listen to your mom and dad, help someone in need, and when you and your friends see a man or woman in uniform, say "thank you." And while you do your part, all of us here in this great chamber will do our best to keep you and the rest of America safe and free.

My fellow citizens, we now move forward, with confidence and faith. Our nation is strong and steadfast. The cause we serve is right, because it is the cause of all mankind. The momentum of freedom in our world is unmistakable - and it is not carried forward by our power alone. We can trust in that greater power Who guides the unfolding of the years. And in all that is to come, we can know that His purposes are just and true.

May God bless the United States of America. Thank you."
Overall, Bush's tone bothered me more than his actual words. He came across as an arrogant megalomaniac bent on forcing others to his will. I suppose some people will see this as "leadership", but I saw hints of an Adolf Hitler.
It was truly remarkable (and frustrating) to see how he played to the crowd by naming the vague fears of terrorism to gain applause and support. I was dumbfounded by the hold he had on people as he was doing this act of what appeared to me to be pure manipulation.
I have to give him credit as a speaker for the way he was able to talk that fear into anger and anger into resolve, and then pivot resolve to blind obedience to anything he said. The more staunch Democrats were not fooled, and sat silently or yawned in some cases. Maybe the Republicans were intentionally hamming it up a bit. Nevertheless, it was good showmanship for a cause that is largely immoral.
Many Catholics will chose to vote for Bush no matter what he does wrong because he claims to be pro-life, while the Democrats all seem to be pro-choice. I am against abortion, and I understand this dilema. However, I am not convinced that Bush will do anymore about abortion than he has already done, and I am sure that he needs to be ousted if this nation is going to redeem in any way for what happened in Iraq - which was wholly wrong!

Peace and Blessings!

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