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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 February 2006, 08:51 GMT
US media see 'scaled-down' Bush
In the wake of a tumultuous year, the State of the Union address was seen as President George W Bush's chance to reassert control of the remainder of his presidency.

President George Bush
President Bush "tried to give his administration a new start"
But while the spectacle of his speech was undimmed, many commentators saw in its ideas a president with his sails trimmed by harsh political and financial realities.

Susan Page, from the USA Today newspaper, suggests that Mr Bush "strode into the House of Representatives with the same Texas-sized confidence as ever".

Yet she adds that "the substance of the proposals Bush outlined reflected the realities of his sixth year in office... the erosion of his job-approval rating, the constraints of a federal budget deficit... the limits of the time left in his term and the costs of the war that divides the nation."

The president, Page writes, "launched a second start of his second term with a downsized domestic agenda and an acknowledgement that his presidency will be judged in large part by the outcome of the conflict in Iraq".

It is a view shared by Dan Balz from the Washington Post.

"Coming off his most difficult year in office, President Bush used his State of the Union address last night to try to give his embattled administration a new start, speaking expansively about his aspirations for the final years of his presidency - but offering a scaled-down blueprint for governing," Balz writes.

"The president has never lacked for big ambitions... and he restated many of them last night. But his address lacked the rhetorical lift of some of his best efforts of the past, and the domestic policy agenda, although lengthy, included initiatives that have been around for some time.

"In that sense, the speech was a reminder of how much the war in Iraq has drained the administration's energy and creativity, and how much it continues to define the Bush presidency."

'Tough paragraph'

For the Congressional Quarterly magazine, it was a speech of "few risks", that followed "a tumultuous year that left some of his domestic initiatives in tatters".

But CNN political analyst Jeff Greenfield takes the view that Mr Bush had played to his strength with a speech tough on national security and the war on terror, and with domestic initiatives that would appeal to his conservative base.

It was significant that he focused on economic issues pushed hard by business, rather than on the social agenda of religious conservatives
Business Week
"All you have to remember about this State of the Union address was one paragraph and two audience members," Greenfield says.

"The paragraph was a tough, take-no-prisoners defence of wiretapping without a warrant. The two audience members were Chief Justice John Roberts and just-confirmed Justice Sam Alito.

"Together they tell you all you need to know about how the president, and the Republicans, intend to wage their fight to retain control of the Congress this fall," he adds, referring to the November mid-term elections.

Business Week magazine declares the president's address: "A pro-business State of the Union."

It says Mr Bush's domestic agenda "was dominated by an 'American Competitiveness Initiative' that's strongly supported by the vast majority of the business community, from large corporations to Main Street shops".

"While only a few items on Bush's wish-list were new to a State of the Union audience, it was significant that he focused on economic issues pushed hard by business, rather than on the social agenda of religious conservatives," the magazine adds.

Scathing

The Wall Street Journal, meanwhile, focuses both on Mr Bush's pledge to cut energy imports and to "ease war anxiety".

It was hardly the bold signal we've been waiting for through years of global warming and deadly struggles in the Middle East, where everything takes place in the context of what Mr Bush rightly called our 'addiction' to imported oil
New York Times
But the WSJ notes: "Absent was the sort of bold thrust that marked last year's push for Social Security overhaul, which failed in a hail of partisan recriminations.

"This year, in a speech that lasted a little more than 50 minutes, Mr Bush proposed a bipartisan commission to examine solutions to the cost of the Baby Boom's retirement and called for 'good will and respect for one another'."

Meanwhile, a scathing editorial in the New York Times, lambastes the president's words on energy independence.

"It was hardly the bold signal we've been waiting for through years of global warming and deadly struggles in the Middle East, where everything takes place in the context of what Mr Bush rightly called our 'addiction' to imported oil," says the NYT.

"Last night's remarks were woefully insufficient. The country's future economic and national security will depend on whether Americans can control their enormous appetite for fossil fuels.

"This is not a matter to be lumped in a laundry list of other initiatives during a once-a-year speech to Congress. It is the key to everything else.

"If Mr Bush wants his final years in office to mean more than a struggle to re-spin failed policies and cement bad initiatives into permanent law, this is the place where he needs to take his stand. And he must do it with far more force and passion than he did last night."


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