WASHINGTON (BP)–President Bush declared his goals are to strengthen the military, American security and the economy in a State of the Union speech marked by somber warnings for the people of the United States and their enemies.
In a 48-minute speech Jan. 29, Bush said his new budget has three primary goals. “We will win this war [against terrorism]; we’ll protect our homeland, and we will revive our economy,” he said.
Bush told a joint session of Congress and a nationally televised audience the “war against terror is only beginning.” Terrorist camps in Afghanistan have been shut down and hundreds of terrorists have been arrested in the months since the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, but “discoveries in Afghanistan confirmed our worst fears and showed us the true scope of the task ahead,” he said.
“Thousands of dangerous killers, schooled in the methods of murder, often supported by outlaw regimes, are now spread throughout the world like ticking time bombs, set to go off without warning,” the president said.
The United States will be “steadfast and patient and persistent,” Bush said, in seeking to achieve two objectives — “we will shut down terrorist camps, disrupt terrorist plans and bring terrorists to justice. And, second, we must prevent the terrorists and regimes who seek chemical, biological or nuclear weapons from threatening the United States and the world.”
Terrorist training camps still exist in at least 12 countries, the president said. The United States military is acting not only in Afghanistan but in the Philippines, Bosnia and off the coast of Africa to help combat terrorism.
The president cited Iran, Iraq and North Korea as examples of regimes that, with terrorists, “constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.”
In whatever way these regimes would threaten the United States and its allies, “the price of indifference would be catastrophic,” Bush said.
“We’ll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side,” he said. “I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.”
His budget contains the largest increase in defense spending in 20 years, “because while the price of freedom and security is high, it is never too high,” Bush said. “Whatever it costs to defend our country, we will pay.”
The president said the budget “will run a deficit that will be small and short-term, so long as Congress restrains spending and acts in a fiscally responsible manner. We’ll prevail in the war, and we will defeat this recession.”
His economic plan can be summarized in one word — “jobs,” Bush said. He encouraged passage of his economic stimulus package, making last year’s tax cuts permanent, approval of a patients’ bill of rights, protections for 401k and pension plans, and reauthorization of welfare reform.
The president also called for each American to give at least two years, or 4,000 hours over the remainder of life, to volunteer service. He invited people to join the new USA Freedom Corps, which will focus on three areas — crises at home, rebuilding communities and expanding compassion overseas.
The United States will defend liberty and justice for all people, including Muslims, Bush said.
“We have no intention of imposing our culture,” he said. “But America will always stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity: The rule of law; limits on the power of the state; respect for women; private property; free speech; equal justice, and religious tolerance.”
The president said in closing, “Our enemies send other people’s children on missions of suicide and murder. They embrace tyranny and death as a cause and a creed. We stand for a different choice, made long ago, on the day of our founding. We affirm it again today. We choose freedom and the dignity of every life.
“Steadfast in our purpose, we now press on. We have known freedom’s price. We have shown freedom’s power. And in this great conflict, my fellow Americans, we will see freedom’s victory.”
Bush and Democratic respondent Richard Gephardt both called for Republicans and Democrats to work together for the country’s good. Gephardt, minority leader in the House of Representatives, said on national TV after Bush’s speech, “”I refuse to accept that while we stand shoulder to shoulder on the war, we should stand toe to toe on the economy.”
Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said overall “it was a great speech. It is such a delight and such a relief to have a president who is comfortable with talking about terms like good and evil and has the integrity to do so with believability.”
The president “served the national interest and the world’s interest in putting the three most dangerous terrorist nations on notice that we are not going to sit back and wait for them to develop and deliver weapons of mass destruction on our civilian population,” Land said.
Land said Bush’s “call to service was extremely reminiscent” of John Kennedy’s statement in his 1961 inauguration speech: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”
“I believe the American people have been responding and will continue to respond to that challenge,” Land said.
The president did not comment on legislation he has endorsed prohibiting all human cloning. Nor did he address directly other sanctity-of-life issues.
“I would have preferred that he speak to the cloning issue, but having heard the speech I’m not sure exactly where he would have put it,” Land said. “He has made it clear that he supports a comprehensive ban on human cloning.
“No one who heard that speech can be in any doubt that the president has put the United States four square behind the fact that while we seek not to impose our culture on the world we do stand squarely behind universal truths, one of them being the sanctity of every human life,” Land said.