On energy, this is a speech that we have heard in various forms since the Carter administration. Yes, we need more fuel-efficient cars. President Bush wants to reduce gasoline usage by 20 percent in 10 years. He also called for "stepping up domestic oil production in environmentally sensitive ways and doubling the current capacity of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve." This Democratic Congress isn't about to approve drilling in Alaska and in the Gulf of Mexico when a Republican majority was unable to approve similar proposals.
Making health care more widely available, along with saving Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid sounds good, but anything with the words "tax breaks" for businesses is unlikely to pass this Congress.
The president should forge an alliance with conservative Democrats who were elected last fall precisely because they are not liberals. Such a strategy might circumvent the liberal House and Senate Democratic leadership, which would find it difficult to penalize them because without them there would likely be no Speaker Pelosi.
The president was his usual gracious self, noting the historical moment with the first female speaker and how Pelosi's father, the late Congressman Thomas D'Alesandro Jr., watched Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman deliver State of the Union speeches from the same rostrum. But don't look for congenial reciprocity from Democrats. Their eyes are on the White House and a number of them are running for president.
The state of the union may be strong, but between the parties and in some cases within the parties, there is a great deal of disunion. The president's address might have called for concord, but, because of his low poll numbers, he is unlikely to get it, unless he can demonstrate real progress in Iraq. Given the domestic political realities, however, he has less than six months to do that. And al-Qaida is betting and plotting against him.
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