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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 January 2007, 13:33 GMT
Bush speech leaves press unmoved
President Bush with Vice-President Dick Cheney and Speaker Nancy Pelosi behind him
Changing times: the first female speaker sat behind Mr Bush
"Madam Speaker," the call rang out, "The president of the United States."

To the New York Times, even the booming prelude to George W Bush's seventh State of the Union speech was a sign of changing times.

Mr Bush became the first US president to begin his annual address to Congress with a nod to a woman, Nancy Pelosi, sitting in the speaker's chair.

"But all the courtesies and flourishes of the evening could not paper over the reminders of how power has flowed away from the president in the new Washington," wrote Kate Zernicke.

In an editorial, the newspaper described the substance of Mr Bush's speech as "a tepid menu of ideas", and criticised him for paying "lip service" to climate change, health insurance, and immigration reform.

The Washington Post was even more blunt about Mr Bush's standing at the start of 2007: "The president offered the usual reassurances last night about the healthy state of the union, but the state of his presidency has never been worse."

Mr Bush called for Americans to rally behind the ongoing military effort Iraq, asked them to cut domestic fuel consumption and reduce dependence on foreign oil, and pledged to "fix" social security and Medicare.

For the Wall Street Journal, the speech by the "politically weakened" Mr Bush marked the start of an effort to define himself as "something other than a lame-duck president".

'Hoping for the best'

Much of the daily US media has become openly hostile to Mr Bush after four years of tribulation in Iraq and the spectacle of Republican defeat in last November's mid-term elections.

Online, some conservative commentators and bloggers seemed to be struggling to find ways to praise the president.

In some ways, this speech may have been the most clearly argued tour-de-force of the president's two terms so far
Michael Novak
National Review
There was support, though, from Michael Novak of the National Review, who was impressed by Mr Bush's delivery, by his "low-key but very strong and conservative arguments", and by his poise.

"In some ways, this speech may have been the most clearly argued tour-de-force of the president's two terms so far," he said.

Instapundit's Stephen Green agreed - up to a point.

"Overall tonight's SOTU was Bush's best," he wrote. "However, Bush best SOTU will also prove his least effective."

Conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan described Mr Bush's Iraq "surge" plan as "a euphemism for hoping for the best... less a strategy than a wish".

"I think the reason Americans are so negative toward this president is that they intuitively know that he has not provided the resources to win [in Iraq]."

And he signed off by praising Democratic Senator Jim Webb, who made the official response to the president's speech.

"It was, I think, the most effective Democratic response in the Bush years... And he said it with testosterone and authority - more authority than this president now has."

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