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Defusing a Ticking Time Bomb

In his first State of the Union address, US President George W. Bush warned Americans that the war on terror is only just beginning.

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President Bush resolves to wipe out terrorism and improve the economy

President Bush urged Americans on Tuesday night to be patient with the war on terrorism. He talked about the efforts made so far, the steps the military had undertaken in Afghanistan, and the future goals for freeing the world of terrorism.

In his 48-minute speech President Bush praised the resilience of the American people and the steadfastness in the protection of the United States, while at the same time announcing that there was still a good ways to go.

Despite the nation being at war and struggling in a recession, "the state of our union has never been stronger," Bush told the gathering of Congress and the millions of Americans watching his address on TV.

"The war against terror is only beginning," Bush warned. And he emphasized that homeland security was a priority because thousands of terrorists remain at large.

Ticking bombs

"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 of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons," Bush told the American people.

The president specifically mentioned Iraq, Iran and North Korea, the oft-mentioned ‘rogue states’ and spoke of an "axis of evil" threatening world peace.

President Bush pledged America would continue to be "steadfast, patient and persistent" when fighting these terrorists. And he outlined two objectives for the war on terror:

Shutting down terrorists’ training camps, disrupting their activities and bringing terrorists to justice.

Preventing terrorists and regimes "who seek chemical, biological or nuclear weapons from threatening the United States and the world."

President Bush called on the civilized world to act together in obtaining these objectives because the "price of indifference would be catastrophic."

Future priorities

Tuesday’s State of the Union address has been described by political analysts and presidential historians as one of the most important annual speeches by a president to Congress since Franklin D. Roosevelt’s in 1941.

President Bush, whose speech was interrupted more than 70 times by bursts of applause, enjoys an extremely high approval rating. Some 80 percent of the American people support the president and believe he is doing a good job.

In his speech President Bush announced that he had three main priorities for the coming year: winning the war against terrorism, making America safe from attack, and reviving the economy.

Economic policy

President Bush admitted that the war on terror would be expensive. The campaign in Afghanistan already costs more than one billion dollars a month. But America must be prepared to pay "whatever it costs".

Over the next few months increased government military spending, combined with lower tax revenues resulting from economic slowdown, are expected to push the federal budget into deficit for the first time in four years. But Bush said as long as Congress "acts in a fiscally responsible way," the deficit will be small and short term.

The president vowed to help boost the economy by defeating the recession and providing "economic security for the American people". "When America works, America prospers, so my economic security plan can be summed up in one word: jobs," the president said.

Likening the war on terrorism to the US’s efforts to combat recession, Bush urged a bipartisan cooperation on domestic issues such as heath insurance and retirement security.

Criticism

While the president received an arousing praise for his speech and ability to rally the nation behind him in a time of uncertainty, not everyone was so uncritical.

House Minority Leader Dick Gephart of the Democrats endorsed the president’s goals of fighting terror, but challenged the Republican positions on social security, taxes and health care, domestic issues which have been largely neglected in Bush’s administration.

In general, Bush’s speech could be divided into two parts. The first addressed the war theme. It was full of strong words, optimism and moral certitude. The second part of the speech focused on the domestic front, and was vague and lacked a firm footing.

The Republicans will need to redirect their attention to domestic issues before the November election, if they want to secure their slim majority in the House and overturn a one-seat deficit in the Senate.

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