The president gave social conservatives what they were looking for. He promised to spend more on abstinence education, noting that abstinence is the only guarantee against acquiring a sexually transmitted disease. In the biggest red-meat issue for social conservatives, he called for a "constitutional process" (meaning an amendment) should all other efforts fail to keep "activist judges" from imposing same-sex "marriage" on the country. He noted it was President Clinton who signed the Defense of Marriage Act into law in 1996. Bush demonstrated his "compassionate" side when he said that while the outcome of the debate is important, "so is the way we conduct it. The same moral tradition that defines marriage also teaches that each individual has dignity and value in God's sight."
His pitch for Congress to enact his proposal to "reform our immigration laws" by allowing employers to hire immigrants who are here illegally is going to face tough going among Republicans. He said it isn't amnesty, but not calling it amnesty does not make it something else. Sen. John Kyl (R-Ariz.), who chairs the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on terrorism, technology and homeland security, has announced his opposition to amnesty for illegals.
Polls indicate large majorities believe President Bush is doing a good job defending the country and fighting terrorism. The same polls indicate slightly fewer than half think he's doing a good job domestically. He'll have to work on closing that gap, but it should not be done by creating new programs and trying to outspend Democrats.
The president's speaking skills improve every year. He is more confident and comfortable in his skin. He'll need those qualities to rebut the fusillade of rhetorical missiles Democrats are launching in their effort to bring down his favorable poll numbers. The State of the Union speech shows Bush knows how to fire back effectively and that to underestimate him is politically dangerous.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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