Tony Snow held a pre-SOTU conference call with bloggers today, and I was very excited to participate, especially since I got to ask a question. Tony started the call out with a summary of the main points that President Bush will address:
First he will begin by acknowledging that with Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, that this will be the first time in America’s history that a president has used the words “Madame Speaker.”
Half of the president’s speech will be on domestic issues with the other half will be on foreign policy issues, the most important part of that being Iraq. He will stress how important it is to America’s safety and security by defeating the insurgents
Of the domestic issues, there will be one political topic and four domestic:
The political issue:
- spending reform. To begin, the president will again say that it’s imperative that we keep the tax cuts. He’ll also address earmarks. We must know who is requesting earmarks, how much, and why. And there should not be any more passing bills in the middle of the night for the purpose of earmarks. The president will also ask for the line item veto and discuss the necessity of entitlement reform.
The non-political domestic issues include the following:
- Health Care: President Bush’s plan would make the money that Americans spend purchasing their own health insurance a standard deduction, something only those who get their health insurance through their companies can do. This is a significant change in the tax code. He also will also recommend that those people who have chronic diseases and, therefore, very high health care costs to be able to form risk pools so that they can better manage those costs.
- Energy: The 20 in 10 goal is to cut gasoline consumption by 20% in 10 years. Renewable resources, reforming cafe standards. We should extend the current rule in light trucks and reform cafe standards in passenger cars. Right now consumers are being forced into cars that aren’t as safe and that they don’t want.
- Education: Reauthorizing the No Child Left Behind program is the main topic here. In its reauthorization, it should be extended into high school. Also the president will recommend tracking individual students and then providing Promise Scholarships to those students, which would allow them to receive tutoring or to transfer to another school via vouchers.
- Immigration: President Bush will call for a comprehensive immigration reform.
I got to ask a question, so I addressed the President’s new approval numbers, which the media are now saying are at Nixonian levels. I asked Tony how the president was going to use this speech to fight against the wave of attacks that will come from the media and the Democrats who will hype this comparison of Bush to Nixon. Tony responded by saying that the president has never been the kind of president who lays on the floor in the fetal position because of low approval ratings. But he will offer new ideas that will excite the American people as well as his base. While he’s doing this he will point out the Democrats have offered nothing in response; instead, they’ve simply criticized.
I predicted that the media and the Dems will continue to compare President Bush to Nixon in an attempt to really pile on. And I was right. Howard Dean sent out this email about 45 minutes ago and this is how he began his letter:
This president’s approval ratings have sunk to levels unseen since Richard Nixon.
That’s right — going into his State of the Union speech, George Bush’s popularity matches the Republican who became so deeply and universally disliked that he resigned from office. Americans have had it with this president.
The White House Communications Department issued this press release with excerpts of the president’s speech.
The American people expect their elected leaders from both parties to work together on the important issues facing the Nation. Tonight the President will lay out an ambitious agenda, driven by bold and innovative concepts. He will discuss the importance of forging common ground with the new Congress and explain that to keep America safe, we must prevail in the war on terror.
“Some in this Chamber are new to the House and Senate – and I congratulate the Democratic majority. Congress has changed, but our responsibilities have not…We are not the first to come here with government divided and uncertainty in the air. Like many before us, we can work through our differences, and achieve big things for the American people.”
“Our citizens don’t much care which side of the aisle we sit on – as long as we are willing to cross that aisle when there is work to be done. Our job is to make life better for our fellow Americans, and help them to build a future of hope and opportunity – and this is the business before us tonight.”
On our growing economy:
“A future of hope and opportunity begins with a growing economy – and that is what we have…Unemployment is low, inflation is low, and wages are rising. This economy is on the move – and our job is to keep it that way, not with more government but with more enterprise.”
On the importance of strengthening and re-authorizing No Child Left Behind this year:
“Five years ago, we rose above partisan differences to pass the No Child Left Behind Act…And because we acted, students are performing better in reading and math, and minority students are closing the achievement gap.”
“Now the task is to build on this success, without watering down standards … without taking control from local communities … and without backsliding and calling it reform…And we can make sure our children are prepared for the jobs of the future, and our country is more competitive, by strengthening math and science skills.”
On the President’s new health care initiatives:
“[I]n all we do, we must remember that the best healthcare decisions are made not by government and insurance companies, but by patients and their doctors.”
On comprehensive immigration reform:
“Extending hope and opportunity in our country requires an immigration system worthy of America – with laws that are fair and borders that are secure. When laws and borders are routinely violated, this harms the interests of our country… Yet…we cannot fully secure the border unless we take pressure off the border – and that requires a temporary worker program.”
On strengthening America’s energy security:
“Extending hope and opportunity depends on a stable supply of energy that keeps America’s economy running and America’s environment clean. For too long our Nation has been dependent on foreign oil. And this dependence leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists – who could cause huge disruptions of oil shipments … raise the price of oil … and do great harm to our economy. It is in our vital interest to diversify America’s energy supply – and the way forward is through technology.”
On the war on terror:
“For all of us in this room, there is no higher responsibility than to protect the people of this country from danger…[T]o win the war on terror we must take the fight to the enemy. From the start, America and our allies have protected our people by staying on the offense. The enemy knows that the days of comfortable sanctuary, easy movement, steady financing, and free flowing communications are long over. For the terrorists, life since Nine-Eleven has never been the same.”
“[O]ur military commanders and I have carefully weighed the options. We discussed every possible approach. In the end, I chose this course of action because it provides the best chance of success. Many in this chamber understand that America must not fail in Iraq – because you understand that the consequences of failure would be grievous and far reaching.”
“The war on terror we fight today is a generational struggle that will continue long after you and I have turned our duties over to others. That is why it is important to work together so our Nation can see this great effort through.”
“Both parties and both branches should work in close consultation. And this is why I propose to establish a special advisory council on the war on terror, made up of leaders in Congress from both political parties. We will share ideas for how to position America to meet every challenge that confronts us. And we will show our enemies abroad that we are united in the goal of victory.”
On American foreign policy:
“American foreign policy is more than a matter of war and diplomacy. Our work in the world is also based on a timeless truth: To whom much is given, much is required. We hear the call to take on the challenges of hunger, poverty, and disease – and that is precisely what America is doing. We must continue to fight HIV/AIDS, especially on the continent of Africa.”