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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
State of the Union Address & Democratic Response
Aired January 20, 2004 - 20:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is a CNN special presentation. Live from Washington, here are Wolf Blitzer, Paula Zahn and Aaron Brown.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'll be looking at the politics of the State of the Union address. What will it take to get the president of the United States another term in office and what the men hoping to take his place have to say about it.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'll be taking a close look at the issues in the speech that concern you and your future, health care, jobs, tax cuts, marriage and the economy. What does the president need to say to show he is on the right course?
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: And we'll be looking at the president's foreign policy. No issue has defined this presidency more than national security. He will defend his decision to go to war, to take the country to war in Iraq, and he will say that the nation must continue to confront regimes that support terrorists around the world.
The president will leave the White House shortly. He will make the short drive -- the long motorcade, but the short drive to the Capitol to deliver his speech. Our senior White House correspondent, John King, has been working on the details of the speech this afternoon.
So John, let's start with national security. The president will make a vigorous defense of the war in Iraq.
JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He certainly will, Aaron. He will have some members of the Iraqi governing council up in the balcony. The president will say proudly that he went to war in Iraq to make the United States and the world safer, and he will say that the United States must now stay the course. He will acknowledge it is hard duty, but Aaron, he will also salute at least seven members of the armed services. President Bush will make the case. One year after he led the nation to war and made the case for war in his State of the Union, he will say his decision was the right decision, and he will say this nation is very much still at war. Implicit in that message, Aaron, not time to change the man who leads the military, the president of the United States.
BROWN: John, will he in any way, do you believe, address the weapons of mass destruction question?
KING: He will not, we are told by aides. Some Democrats have said the president should give the American people an explanation of why he could say with such certainty last year that there were weapons of mass destruction and none have been found. Some Democrats even say the president owes the American people an apology. This will be a president who says he did the right thing in Iraq by toppling Saddam Hussein. He will cite Libya coming clean on its weapons of mass destruction program, to saying because he went to war in Iraq, others around the world are beginning to take notice. So there will be no apologies from this president, Aaron. He will be quite defiant and quite sure of his decision tonight. The campaign will determine whether the American people accept that explanation.
BROWN: And John, just briefly, he will reinforce that, we gather, by the people who are sitting next to the first lady.
KING: He certainly will, Aaron. Members of the Iraqi governing council, members of the military, the president trying to make the case that he is the commander-in-chief, that this is not time to change course in Iraq. The president again will acknowledge that it's a tough course still ahead, and he will not be able to answer this question for the American people: When will those troops be coming home? But the president will say very early in the speech tonight it is time for the American people to make a choice. The election is in November. The president, though, will try to frame it tonight.
BROWN: John, thank you. Our senior White House correspondent, John King, will be with us throughout the night -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much. Let's get some perspective on the president's speech tonight. Joining us now is special guest, the House majority leader, Tom DeLay.
Mr. Leader, thanks very much for joining us. Some of the speech will make you happy, some might not. Something that might make you happy is the president's strong warning opposing gay marriage. Is this what you want to hear?
REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, I think the president's going to support marriage, and he's going to lay out the fact that -- what we've known for a long time in this country, that marriage is between a man and a woman, that that's the foundation of this society, and the president realizes that.
BLITZER: He's not going to say there should be a constitutional amendment, but he'll suggest that there might be one necessary if judges continue to make rulings like in Massachusetts. Would you rather have him go all the way right now and simply go for a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage?
DELAY: No, I think what the president's doing is sending a very real message to the judiciary that this is something that should be done and handled by the legislature, by the Congress and by the executive branch, and that they shouldn't be making these rulings by fiat or legislating from the bench. That's what he's really saying. Now, if they don't take that warning, then we'll look at what options are available to us to the very end. And if we can't get the attention of the judiciary, then we'll have to take our constitutional prerogatives. BLITZER: One other area that you may not be that happy -- he will make a very detailed statement in the speech tonight supporting his proposals to allow some of the undocumented workers to remain here, to get work permits in the United States. You're not very happy about that.
DELAY: Well, the president is showing leadership. We have a problem in this country, and he has recognized it and he's trying to solve it. And he has laid out some principles that are sound. Now, the details, we'll work out with the president, as we have on many issues. The Congress will work -- get with the president, we'll work it out. And I'm sure we'll come up with a solution that satisfies people.
BLITZER: Are you frustrated? A year ago in the State of the Union he made the case the Iraqis had weapons of mass destruction. The war happened. Saddam Hussein is now captured. His regime is gone. But they haven't found any weapons of mass destruction.
DELAY: Well, the Kay report shows that there were weapons of mass destruction. We know that Saddam used weapons of mass destruction on Iran and on his own people. So we'll wait and see what turns up. But that wasn't...
BLITZER: You said that -- you...
DELAY: That wasn't the only reason we went into Iraq. There were many other reasons.
BLITZER: But you're still hoping or you're still assuming they might find quantities, stockpiles, of chemical or biological weapons?
DELAY: I don't dwell on it. We went in for the right reasons. We did a great job in getting rid of Saddam Hussein, and now we are making a huge impact on the Middle East and the whole region. And I think it's good for America and it's good for the world.
BLITZER: Last night, we saw the results of the Iowa caucuses, the Democrats -- some surprises. What did you make of that outcome?
DELAY: Well, first of all, everybody's making a big deal over John Kerry winning the election. I was in Iowa last night. What I saw were people having a hard time picking from eight bad choices. Thirty-eight percent is not a huge win. And so they'll go on. They'll go through their process. What I did see in Iowa was Republicans that were energized, united behind George W. Bush and looking forward to reelecting him.
BLITZER: You're ready for a good fight.
DELAY: I'm ready for a good fight.
BLITZER: Thanks very much for joining us.
DELAY: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you. And we'll be right back.
BROWN: As we said, national security and foreign policy being major parts of this president's State of the Union speech tonight, we're joined by someone who is an important voice on those issues in his party. Senator Joe Biden is the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. We're always glad to see him.
Senator, on economic matters, domestic matters, the president can come out with new programs and new ideas. He is essentially locked into the "Bush doctrine." Can he say anything tonight -- is there anything in particular you want to hear?
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: I think he can. I don't think he will. What I'd like to hear him say is that he's going to continue down the road in Iraq where he's going to reach out to the international community, that he's going to go back to the United Nations to agree now on what will be the follow-on to Bremer in Iraq. That would open up the door for NATO coming in. That would open up the door for more economic support.
I just hope he levels with the American people because if he's not going to do that, it's going to cost us another $100 billion. It's going to cost us a lot more troops and...
BROWN: In what sense has he not leveled?
BIDEN: Well, he hasn't -- the implication is that this is all going to be done soon, that we're not -- he's not going to come back and ask for another $87 billion. If you just keep American troops there another year, which everyone thinks will have to be done, you're talking at least another $60 billion. Do you follow me?
BIDEN: And so some -- there's only one of two ways. We either get international help or we pay it all our ourselves. And so that's what I mean by if he's not going to get international help, tell the people now: You got to stick with me. It's important to do this. It's going to cost more. It's going to take time.
BROWN: They're going to the U.N. this week to try and get some political help...
BROWN: ... to redo in some way the political situation in Iraq.
BIDEN: And that's key because if you do that well, you then get the military help from NATO. You then get more economic help from the EU. You and I spoke -- I spent an hour and a half with Chirac. I spent time over at NATO. I spoke to all the permanent reps. That's what they want to hear. If they're in on the deal of what the political landscape will look like, they're ready to be on the deal of risking lives, they're ready to be in the deal of more money.
BROWN: Does the president, or should the president explain to the American people in this speech tonight what to this point is a failure to find weapons of mass destruction?
BIDEN: Well, I'm going to get in trouble with the Democrats saying this. No.
BROWN: It wouldn't be the first time.
BIDEN: No, I don't think he should take the time. I think he should say -- explain what he thought existed and say, We're not sure yet, but even if we don't find the weapons, it was the right thing to do for the following reason. But I don't think he should apologize or go into any detail about it. I think it should be forward-looking.
Look, this is the president's night, and he should get a chance to lay out his aspirations for the next year. We both know there's a lot of difference between the rhetoric of the speech every president makes and that little bluebook that comes up with the numbers attached to it in the program.
BROWN: All State of the Union speeches are, to some degree, political. We're in an election year. We're a day after the caucuses. Is this -- should we view this as a political speech or a policy speech or both?
BIDEN: I think both. I think both. Again, I have the view -- I've been here now for seven presidents, since I was 29 years old, in the Senate. I think you give the president the benefit of the doubt on his one night speaking before the Congress, and you hope that what he says comports with what he physically offers the Congress, in terms of what he wants done. But you know, I mean, moving this to the day after the Iowa caucuses wasn't accidental, I don't think. So you know, there's always a political dimension to it. But that's part of the process.
BROWN: Beyond Iraq, are you comfortable -- and beyond the war on terror because American foreign policy is not simply that...
BROWN: We've tended it to see it that way for the last two-and- a-half years. Are you comfortable with the foreign policy direction of the country?
BIDEN: No, I'm not because the president hasn't made up his mind yet. He hasn't chosen between the neocon prescription -- and these are right honorable guys. I don't mean that in a pejorative way -- and sort of the mainstream internationalists, you know, that axis of the secretary of state and the uniformed military on one side, and you know, you're going from Cheney down through Wolfowitz and others on the other side. And I think the president is still a little bit of a work in progress there.
Things we've never talked about is his strategic doctrine, nuclear weapons, wanting to test more and build more nuclear weapons. I think that's all a serious, serious long-term mistake for the United States. But because everything is more urgent, we never sort of get to it. So I'm not happy with his foreign policy. ZAHN: And we're back, and call your attention now to what you're looking at on the screen. The president has arrived at the House, where he will make his State of the Union address in just about 20 minutes or so. The security is incredibly tight here this evening. More than 1,500 officers are involved in keeping this a safe event, including agents from local, state, federal and the U.S. military. Capitol police say they have heavy defense measures on the ground, in the air. They won't go in any specifics, as they shouldn't, but they say they have been preparing for this for months.
Once again, just a shade less than 20 minutes away from the president's State of the Union address.
Now, a recent court ruling has encouraged those calling for more legal rights for same-sex couples. So have domestic partnership laws passed or being considered in some states. Sources say it's an issue the president will target in his speech this evening. Our next guest is going to talk a little bit about that.
William Bennett is a Washington fellow for the Claremont Institute. He also happens to be co-director for Empower America. And he joins us now from Santa Monica, California. Welcome, sir.
WILLIAM BENNETT, FELLOW, CLAREMONT INSTITUTE: Thank you, Paula.
ZAHN: Let's talk a little bit about what the president is expected to say. He will tell the American public he believes marriage is an institution that should be limited to male and female unions. And he will also indicate, if necessary, he would support a constitutional amendment that would actually legislate that. Can that play both ways with the electorate?
BENNETT: Well, I don't think so. I think, if you look at the electorate, you'll find there's vast support for the notion of marriage as the president has it, not only in the United States, by the way, but through almost all of human history. This is the way it's understood. When you poll people, they think marriage is one man and one woman, and not anything else. On the other hand, people think that rights or benefits should be available to people who are not married. But most Americans do not like the notion of same-sex civil unions, either, because they don't think that that kind of situation should be a privileged situation, as is the relationship of a man and a woman. And this is pretty strong in Democrat precincts, as well as Republican, though there are differences.
ZAHN: Bill, let's move on to what else the president is expected to address this evening. He's supposed to lay out a number of expensive projects, from the ongoing efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan...
ZAHN: ... to a very expensive space initiative. Do you have concerns about the fiscal responsibility of this president?
BENNETT: Well, some. I'm one of those persons who thinks that limited government is a -- is a -- ought to be a reality, as well as an ideal. But one has to say about this president that he's a big president. I mean, he thinks big and he acts big. And in the most important ways, that's very positive. He's done so on issues of war and peace. He's done so on foreign policy.
He's taking on big issues. Look at the immigration. He's not afraid of the third rails of politics. I could see some more restraint on some of the spending. I wasn't particularly happy about the Medicare. I think some of the education spending, an area I know pretty well, isn't necessary. But this is a historic presidency. This is a guy who paints in very bold strokes, takes everything on and is not backing off. And I think we're going to see that tonight in the State of the Union.
ZAHN: And Bill, give us the sense of anticipation -- as we're watching some pictures of the president's arrival. First we saw Condoleezza Rice in Statuary Hall.
ZAHN: Now we see members of Congress filing into the House of Representatives. What kind of reaction do you expect the president to get in this bitterly divided Congress tonight?
BENNETT: It's a bitterly divided Congress. It's a bitterly divided country. You know, it was Jefferson who said that not every difference of opinion is a difference in principles. I think we may be at the point where we have some very different principles, Paula. I notice this Democrat poll that pointed out that 1 percent of Democrats polled thought the war on terror was the No. 1 issue on their minds. You get much higher numbers among Republicans. That's not just a difference of opinion, that's a difference in principle, a difference in priority.
So it's a very divided country when it comes to a lot of issues. And I think the president will -- if not acknowledging it explicit explicitly, will make it clear in his remarks that that split is there. He has his convictions. He has been elected, and he will stick to his convictions.
ZAHN: Let's come back to a point you were making earlier about -- your describing this president as being a big president...
ZAHN: ... some describing him as socially conservative and fiscally liberal. Do you buy that label?
BENNETT: No, I don't think -- I don't think -- I don't think that's fair. I think I've given you my point of view on some of the spending, but there's no question that this is a president who has not been afraid to put forward his agenda.
I remember it was said about Bill Clinton, even by his defenders, is that he wasted his opportunities. He didn't act on those principles and deep beliefs. If this president has more beliefs or convictions he's not acting on, I wouldn't know what they are because each week or each month, something else comes forward. He's got his -- he's got his opportunity. He's been elected, and he is taking it. And I think that's good in politics. I think when you're elected, you act like you've been elected. You take those bold strokes. And if the people don't like it, they will let you know the next chance they get.
ZAHN: Bill Bennett, always appreciate your perspective. Thanks so much for joining us tonight.
BENNETT: Thank you, Paula. Thank you.
ZAHN: And we'll continue to show you pictures, as members of the Congress file into the House, as they await the president's State of the Union address. The whole world -- that's Andrew Card, one of the advisers to the president.
But we're going to move on and talk a little bit more about a small group of Americans we brought together in Toledo, Ohio. We're going to hear what these average voters really want to hear from President Bush.
BLITZER: And we'll also go to Manchester, New Hampshire, and the Democratic candidates. They're scrambling to be the next to give the State of the Union address. We'll see what shape their campaigns are in after Iowa.
BROWN: It isn't just Democratic politics, either. How do you keep voters who like you happy? How do you attract new ones? A task for the president tonight. And we'll look at that, as our coverage continues on State of the Union night on CNN.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our continuing coverage. The senators, the members of the House of Representatives, all the other guests -- they're still filing into this chamber here on Capitol Hill, getting ready for the president of the United States. He's in a holding room, together with the first lady and their special guests. Our continuing coverage of the State of the Union address.
And as we count down to tonight's speech, let's find out what the Democrats in New Hampshire are looking for, as they prepare to watch the president. The anchor of CNN's "INSIDE POLITICS," our colleague and friend, Judy Woodruff, is in Manchester, New Hampshire, right now.
Judy, what's going on? What are the Democrats hoping to achieve now, in the aftermath of Iowa but just before -- a week before New Hampshire?
JUDY WOODRUFF, HOST, "INSIDE POLITICS": Right, Wolf. Well, you know, what a difference a day makes in the life of a presidential campaign. In fact, New Hampshire today opened with welcome arms, looking for the three survivors of the Iowa caucuses, two of them as conquering heroes, the other one with something to prove. One of those who came in as a conquering hero, clearly, John Kerry. He brought his message that he's the one candidate with experience, who can go toe to toe with President Bush on national security. But to that, he added what he wants to do for Americans at home, to their health care and to their education.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D-NC), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... because we come from different places. I mean, I come from a background where my father worked in a mill all his life, and I was the first person in my family to go to college. And also, I've proven that I can compete in one of the hardest places in America for a Democrat to compete, which is the South.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: Well, obviously, Wolf, that was not John Kerry. Essentially, what John Kerry is saying -- that he wants to talk about tuition, college tuition. He wants to talk about health care. He says, There are things that Americans need, and those are the things that I want to talk about. So he's expanding his portfolio.
But what you just heard John Edwards saying is -- I asked him today, when I ran into him today campaigning here in Manchester, New Hampshire -- I said, you know, Where do you and Senator Kerry differ? You're coming out of Iowa. The two of you did very well there. Where do you differ on the issues? He said, in essence, We agree on all the major issues. Where we differ is on our backgrounds. I come from a humble background, and in essence, Wolf, pointing out that John Kerry comes from a far more blue-blooded heritage.
BLITZER: Judy Woodruff -- Judy Woodruff reporting from Manchester, New Hampshire. Thanks very much, Judy. Paula, over to you.
ZAHN: Thanks, Wolf. Well, we have heard from the political pros. Now let's check in with the people. Jeff Flock is standing by with a small gathering of voters at the University of Toledo in Ohio. Jeff, we don't see you yet. We see Senator Hillary Clinton, the junior senator from New York. But I know you're out there someplace. Just describe to us, if you would, what their expectations are.
JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Paula, it's always good to be with the people. You know, people that we're with tonight, with this group, thinking about different things tonight -- economy, Iraq, jobs, health care. We have assembled a group of voters -- young, old, black, white, Hispanic, Republican, Democrat, independent. The single strand that threads them all together is the fact that none of them have made their mind up about how they'll vote this fall. Will it be President Bush or whomever the Democrats come up with? So we'll be watching the speech with them tonight, Paula, seeing it through their eyes and hearing their words after it's done. Back to you.
ZAHN: Jeff, I know you've had a chance to talk to these folks about a whole range of issues. What seems to be the absolute key concern? FLOCK: I expected Iraq was going to be the top concern, but I'm hearing more about economy tonight. So it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out.
ZAHN: Let's listen to the speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, for a moment.
REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), HOUSE SPEAKER: ... the gentlewoman from Missouri, Mr. Blunt; the gentlewoman from Ohio, Ms. Sprice (ph); the gentleman from Georgia, Mr. Kingston; the gentlewoman from California, Ms. Pelosi; the gentleman from Maryland, Mr. Hoyer; the gentleman from New Jersey, Mr. Menendez; and the gentleman from South Carolina, Mr. Clyburn.
ZAHN: All right, Jeff, we're going to dip back out of that. And just a final thought on what else the folks in Toledo, Ohio, are talking about tonight.
FLOCK: ... on their list. Iraq is certainly on the list. A lot of people want to know about health care, too. A lot of people with different concerns tonight, so a lot of ears on this one.
ZAHN: All right. Jeff Flock, thanks so much.
We have just learned that Commerce Secretary Don Evans will not be in attendance tonight. As part of the extraordinary concern over security, there will be several members of the Republican Party and two members of the Democratic Party that will also sit out. Among those absent from the GOP, Senator Trent Lott, Representative Chris Cox, and for the Democratic side, Senator Harry Reed and Representative George Miller. Once again, part of the extraordinary measures that are in place in this post-9/11 environment.
BROWN: You heard House Speaker Denny Hastert introducing the House leadership. There's an elaborate protocol. And then the vice president, who's the president of the Senate, introducing the Senate leadership. The Senate leadership now making its way into the chamber, as well.
And we're joined to talk a little bit about the politics of all of this -- joined by Jeff Greenfield, who's up in New Hampshire, and Joe Klein from "Time" magazine, who's in Washington with us.
Jeff, let me start with you. Twelve years ago, the president's father, under clearly different circumstances, launched his own reelection campaign in a State of the Union speech. Are there, even in these differing circumstances, parallels?
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Well, what I think, Aaron, is that it was much tougher on the first President Bush. He faced declining popularity. Pat Buchanan was coming after him up here in New Hampshire. The economic news was bad. And the White House made a major push. This is where the wretched cliche, "a defining moment," was born, to our sorrow, to say this State of the Union's going to redefine the president. They brought in the best talent they had. And the speech fizzled because President Bush, the first one, didn't have that much to say.
This President Bush does not share that economic bad news. He does not share plummeting approval ratings. What he does share is an uneasy sense, I think, among some -- among a lot of voters, actually, that the one weakness in the president, whom they like personally -- they think he's a strong leader -- that he doesn't understand their concerns, and they have real economic worries. The recent surveys from two different sources say that this president, even after the war in Iraq and the capture of Saddam Hussein, is only marginally ahead of an unnamed Democrat. So he clearly has not closed any sale. It's a little early for that.
He's in better shape than his dad, but this is by no means a sure thing. And this State of the Union is his chance to say, You know what. I am the president you want me to be. I don't think he's going to say, Aaron, I feel your pain, like his predecessor, but that's part of the message he may want to contribute.
BROWN: We saw, Jeff, as you were talking, some of the people who were invited by the first lady -- soldiers, and there will be others, as well. They will be in the hall tonight. The vice president's wife, Lynn Cheney, there, as well. You see the first lady taking her seat.
This, too, has changed over time, this kind of elaborate seating of special guests who are there for symbolic reasons, important reasons. It didn't start that way in '82, when Ronald Reagan did it with Lenny Stupnick (ph), who was a hero of a plane crash here in Washington, but it has grown over time.
Let's bring Joe Klein in, as we look at the first lady. Joe, it would seem to me, at least, the president doesn't need to redefine anything. He just needs to say to people where we are and where we are going to is right.
JOE KLEIN, "TIME" MAGAZINE: You know, the interesting thing about this speech, Aaron, is that these are the least dramatic circumstances of any State of the Union the president has delivered. The first year was dramatic because it was his first. It was a budget message, not an official State of the Union. The second year, we had just won the victory in Afghanistan. We were very close to September 11. It was a very dramatic moment. Last year, the most dramatic of all, we were about to go to a war in Iraq. This year, this speech is the second hottest topic in this town, in Washington, tonight, the hottest being what happened in Iowa last night.
BROWN: We'll get back to that in a second. The diplomatic corps has come in. In that sense, I mean, the White House scheduling the speech as it did today, wanted to steal a headline, and so would we if we were in their position. Has that -- have the events, the surprising events -- as the Supreme Court comes in. Have the surprising events in Iowa, I guess, countered the strategy?
KLEIN: Well, I think what they were expecting was a Howard Dean victory in Iowa, and this would have been a contrast between angry Governor Dean and visionary President Bush, but what you have is a much different situation that they're looking at, and this seems to me at least from, you know, what we've been hearing so far is not a speech that's going to break huge news, that is not going to have a major initiative, that it's not going to have a phrase like "axis of evil," although we can always be surprised.
BROWN: Jeff, has the import of this speech changed because of the events in Iowa last night?
GREENFIELD: You know, I really don't think so. I will bet that you'll hear some cryptic or maybe not so cryptic political shots fired across the Democrat's bow. But this is the president's moment. Joe said earlier, you don't have a better stage than the State of the Union. It's the pomp and pageantry of it.
I also think, if we're going to be candid with our audience, that the half life of most of these speeches is about 36 hours. There will be a bump in the polls and all of that and then we'll go about our business. The only speech I can remember in recent years where there was a lasting political effect was when Bill Clinton challenged the Republican Congress to save Social Security first and that really put them on the defensive.
BROWN: OK. The president's cabinet now making its way in, led by the secretary of state, who in the hierarchy of the American government is the senior cabinet official, if that's the right word. There's the defense secretary, the attorney general behind him. The attorney general will certainly be a lightning rod in the election ahead. We heard just last night in Iowa his name invoked by Democratic candidates more than once. He will be an important player.
The interior secretary right behind him, all a part of the choreography, the protocol of a State of the Union speech. We see that's the agriculture secretary and behind her, the labor secretary, labor issues will be central. There is a ferocious debate going on in Washington over overtime and who is eligible for it, and that could become a potent political issue.
The secretary of transportation, the only Democrat in the cabinet, Secretary Mineta there behind him, the secretary of energy, Spencer Abraham from Michigan, Rod Paige, who is the secretary of education, making his way in. All of this, we saw Tom Ridge, the homeland security secretary, the junior member of the cabinet if you will, the most recently created cabinet position.
All of this, now, they will make their way to their seats. All of the members of Congress, the House, the Senate, all their invited guests, they will all make their way in, and then the president will be announced to both, to all present.
ZAHN: It's probably worth noting how little the president, Joe Klein, has taken a chance here. This is a speech that the president started working on in October of last year, and even putting some, I'm told, midterm touches on it in November. It has been thoroughly vetted.
KLEIN: Well, the State of the Union has become an almost year- long process. It certainly was when Bill Clinton was president. They would start with the ideas in the spring, and then move on to the rhetoric in the fall, and I think that, you know, the State of the Union, Clinton really ramped up the importance of this speech. Jeff was talking about the 1998 Clinton speech. One that we should remember now is the 1996 speech, where he was running for re-election and he said that the era of big government is over.
ZAHN: And once again, it's hard telling what the kind of reaction the president might get as he comes into the House, how long it may take him to make it up to where we will hear the State of the Union address, but we are told just moments away from the president's State of the Union address.
BLITZER: There is no doubt, as we see the secretary of state, Colin Powell, the president will get a very tumultuous reception. The Republicans are in full mass. There are a lot more Republicans not only because they're a majority in both the House and the Senate but also because many of the Democrats including most of the Democratic presidential candidates who are members of the U.S. house or Senate, most of them are not even here, they're up campaigning in New Hampshire, perhaps elsewhere.
The man sitting next to the first lady is Adnan Pachachi, the head of the Iraqi governing council right now. He's come to Washington with Paul Bremer, the chief U.S. administrator, and the president will refer to Mr. Pachachi in his remarks tonight.
He'll make the point that things are going well in Iraq, despite the tensions, despite the continued conflict that's unfolding. Things are much better than they were, a point that the vice president, as we see, the president of the Senate, who will be behind together with the speaker of the House of Representatives throughout the president's address, the vice president clearly very much involved in all of the president's major decisions.
Lynn Cheney, the vice president's wife, is attending as well. This is a moment where almost everyone in Washington, almost everyone in Washington gathers and if they're not there, they're certainly watching it on television. We're told the president is now getting ready to leave the holding room.
Shortly we'll be hearing those very, very powerful words, as the president begins to come in. Let's go down to the front, as we wait to hear from the introduction of the president and as he will walk in, he'll be enthusiastically received not only by Republicans but Democrats as well.
Let's listen in as these doors will open, the president will be introduced, the president will be very, very excited, very happy. Over these past several days he's been rehearsing his speech. We're told that without applause, it goes for about 40 minutes, but with applause they expect it to go just under one hour.
They say the president's speech last year before this joint meeting of the Congress was about 5,500 words. This time they've cut it down to about 5,000 words, but the president will now be introduced. Let's listen.
WILSON LIVINGOOD, HOUSE SERGEANT AT ARMS: Mr. Speaker, the president of the United States.
BROWN: Various points throughout the speech, Democrats will applaud or Republicans will applaud, but at this moment, when the president of the United States walks into the House chamber, the Senate majority leader behind him, at this moment, a rare moment in Washington these days, is not especially partisan. Democrats and Republicans and their invited guests all stand.
ZAHN: We need to take an account with so many of our analysts who have told us throughout the evening just how bitterly this, divided this Congress is on a whole range of issues and it will be interesting to see when the president addresses the issue of making a tax cut permanent, what kind of response you see on the part of the Democrats.
There are a number of issues that conservative Republicans have told us tonight that will also make them frown. The president obviously trying to reach his conservative base as well as attempting to broaden his base of support here tonight as well.
BROWN: These are important moments in the American democracy, and in all the partisanship of it, as you look at that grand hall...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's the shot of the night.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go get 'em, sir.
BROWN: Members are allowed to bring one guest, and someone brought a child, a beautiful one at that. This walk, too, over time, has changed some. It has lengthened. People wanting to shake hands with the president, congratulate him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Way to go.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good to see you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Members of the supreme court there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you doing?
BROWN: And the joint chairmen of the joint chiefs and the members of the joint chief of staff there. Shaking hands with the commander-in-chief.
The president will walk to the podium, hand copies of the speech to the vice president and the speaker and then he'll be introduced yet again.
This is not a unique American moment but it is perhaps in the sense that all of the world watches it and they are watching it around the world tonight.
REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R-IL), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: Members of Congress, I have the high privilege and the distinct honor of presenting to you the president of the United States.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Speaker, Vice President Cheney, members of Congress, distinguished guests and fellow citizens: America, this evening, is a nation called to great responsibilities. And we are rising to meet them.
As we gather tonight, hundreds of thousands of American service men and women are deployed across the world in the war on terror. By bringing hope to the oppressed and delivering justice to the violent, they are making America more secure.
Each day, law enforcement personnel and intelligence officers are tracking terrorist threats; analysts are examining airline passenger lists; the men and women of our new Homeland Security Department are patrolling our coasts and borders. And their vigilance is protecting America.
Americans are proving once again to be the hardest-working people in the world. The American economy is growing stronger. The tax relief you passed is working.
Tonight, members of Congress can take pride in the great works of compassion and reform that skeptics had thought impossible.
You're raising the standards for our public schools, and you're giving our senior citizens prescription drug coverage under Medicare.
We have faced serious challenges together, and now we face a choice: We can go forward with confidence and resolve, or we can turn back to the dangerous illusion that terrorists are not plotting and outlaw regimes are no threat to us. We can press on with economic growth and reforms in education and Medicare, or we can turn back to old policies and old divisions.
We've not come all this way, through tragedy and trial and war, only to falter and leave our work unfinished. Americans are rising to the tasks of history, and they expect the same from us. In their efforts, their enterprise and their character, the American people are showing that the state of our union is confident and strong.
Our greatest responsibility is the active defense of the American people. Twenty-eight months have passed since September 11, 2001 -- over two years without an attack on American soil -- and it is tempting to believe that the danger is behind us.
That hope is understandable, comforting -- and false. The killing has continued in Bali, Jakarta, Casablanca, Riyadh, Mombassa, Jerusalem, Istanbul and Baghdad. The terrorists continue to plot against America and the civilized world. And by our will and courage, this danger will be defeated.
Inside the United States, where the war began, we must continue to give homeland security and law enforcement personnel every tool they need to defend us.
And one of those essential tools is the Patriot Act, which allows federal law enforcement to better share information, to track terrorists, to disrupt their cells and to seize their assets. For years, we have used similar provisions to catch embezzlers and drug traffickers. If these methods are good for hunting criminals, they are even more important for hunting terrorists.
Key provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire next year.
The terrorist threat will not expire on that schedule.
Our law enforcement needs this vital legislation to protect our citizens. You need to renew the Patriot Act.
America is on the offensive against the terrorists who started this war. Last March, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, a mastermind of September the 11th, awoke to find himself in the custody of U.S. and Pakistani authorities. Last August the 11th brought the capture of the terrorist Hambali, who was a key player in the attack in Indonesia that killed over 200 people.
We're tracking al Qaeda around the world, and nearly two- thirds of their known leaders have now been captured or killed.
Thousands of very skilled and determined military personnel are on a manhunt, going after the remaining killers who hide in cities and caves. And one by one, we will bring these terrorists to justice.
As part of the offensive against terror, we are also confronting the regimes that harbor and support terrorists and could supply them with nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.
The United States and our allies are determined: We refuse to live in the shadow of this ultimate danger.
(APPLAUSE) The first to see our determination were the Taliban, who made Afghanistan the primary training base of al Qaeda killers.
As of this month, that country has a new constitution, guaranteeing free elections and full participation by women. Businesses are opening, health care centers are being established, and the boys and girls of Afghanistan are back in school.
With help from the new Afghan army, our coalition is leading aggressive raids against the surviving members of the Taliban and al Qaeda. The men and women of Afghanistan are building a nation that is free and proud and fighting terror. And America is honored to be their friend.
Since we last met in this chamber, combat forces of the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Poland and other countries enforced the demands of the United Nations, ended the rule of Saddam Hussein, and the people of Iraq are free.
Having broken the Baathist regime, we face a remnant of violent Saddam supporters. Men who ran away from our troops in battle are now dispersed and attack from the shadows. These killers, joined by foreign terrorists, are a serious, continuing danger.
Yet we're making progress against them. The once all-powerful ruler of Iraq was found in a hole and now sits in a prison cell.
Of the top 55 officials of the former regime, we have captured or killed 45.
Our forces are on the offensive, leading over 1,600 patrols a day and conducting an average of 180 raids a week. We are dealing with these thugs in Iraq just as surely as we dealt with Saddam Hussein's evil regime.
The work of building a new Iraq is hard and it is right. And America has always been willing to do what it takes for what is right.
Last January, Iraq's only law was the whim of one brutal man. Today our coalition is working with the Iraqi Governing Council to draft a basic law, with a bill of rights.
We are working with Iraqis and the United Nations to prepare for a transition to full Iraqi sovereignty by the end of June.
As democracy takes hold in Iraq, the enemies of freedom will do all in their power to spread violence and fear. They are trying to shake the will of our country and our friends, but the United States of America will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins.
The killers will fail, and the Iraqi people will live in freedom.
Month by month, Iraqis are assuming more responsibility for their own security and their own future. And tonight we are honored to welcome one of Iraq's most respected leaders: the current president of the Iraqi Governing Council, Adnan Pachachi.
Sir, America stands with you and the Iraqi people as you build a free and peaceful nation.
Because of American leadership and resolve, the world is changing for the better.
Last month, the leader of Libya voluntarily pledged to disclose and dismantle all of his regime's weapons of mass destruction programs, including a uranium-enrichment project for nuclear weapons. Colonel Gadhafi correctly judged that his country would be better off and far more secure without weapons of mass murder.
Nine months of intense negotiations involving the United States and Great Britain succeeded with Libya, while 12 years of diplomacy with Iraq did not. And one reason is clear: For diplomacy to be effective, words must be credible. And no one can now doubt the word of America.
Different threats require different strategies. Along with nations in the region, we're insisting that North Korea eliminate its nuclear program.
America and the international community are demanding that Iran meet its commitments and not develop nuclear weapons.
America is committed to keeping the world's most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the world's most dangerous regimes.
When I came to this rostrum on September 20, 2001, I brought the police shield of a fallen officer -- my reminder of lives that ended and a task that does not end.
I gave to you and to all Americans my complete commitment to securing our country and defeating our enemies. And this pledge, given by one, has been kept by many. You in the Congress have provided the resources for our defense and cast the difficult votes of war and peace. Our closest allies have been unwavering. America's intelligence personnel and diplomats have been skilled and tireless.
And the men and women of the American military, they have taken the hardest duty. We've seen their skill and their courage in armored charges and midnight raids and lonely hours on faithful watch. We have seen the joy when they return and felt the sorrow when one is lost.
I've had the honor of meeting our service men and women at many posts, from the deck of a carrier in the Pacific to a mess hall in Baghdad.
Many of our troops are listening tonight. And I want you and your families to know: America is proud of you. And my administration and this Congress will give you the resources you need to fight and win the war on terror.
I know that some people question if America is really in a war at all. They view terrorism more as a crime, a problem to be solved mainly with law enforcement and indictments.
After the World Trade Center was first attacked in 1993, some of the guilty were indicted and tried and convicted and sent to prison. But the matter was not settled. The terrorists were still training and plotting in other nations and drawing up more ambitious plans.
After the chaos and carnage of September the 11th, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers. The terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States. And war is what they got.
Some in this chamber and in our country did not support the liberation of Iraq. Objections to war often come from principled motives. But let us be candid about the consequences of leaving Saddam Hussein in power.
We're seeking all the facts. Already, the Kay report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations.
Had we failed to act, the dictator's weapons of mass destruction programs would continue to this day.
Had we failed to act, Security Council resolutions on Iraq would have been revealed as empty threats, weakening the United Nations and encouraging defiance by dictators around the world.
Iraq's torture chambers would still be filled with victims -- terrified and innocent.
The killing fields of Iraq, where hundreds of thousands of men and women and children vanished into the sands, would still be known only to the killers.
For all who love freedom and peace, the world without Saddam Hussein's regime is a better and safer place.
Some critics have said our duties in Iraq must be internationalized. This particular criticism is hard to explain to our partners in Britain, Australia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Italy, Spain, Poland, Denmark, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Romania, the Netherlands...
... Norway, El Salvador and the 17 other countries that have committed troops to Iraq.
As we debate at home, we must never ignore the vital contributions of our international partners or dismiss their sacrifices. From the beginning, America has sought international support for our operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and we have gained much support.
There is a difference, however, between leading a coalition of many nations and submitting to the objections of a few. America will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country.
We also hear doubts that democracy is a realistic goal for the greater Middle East, where freedom is rare. Yet it is mistaken and condescending to assume that whole cultures and great religions are incompatible with liberty and self-government.
I believe that God has planted in every human heart the desire to live in freedom. And even when that desire is crushed by tyranny for decades, it will rise again.
As long as the Middle East remains a place of tyranny and despair and anger, it will continue to produce men and movements that threaten the safety of America and our friends.
So America is pursuing a forward strategy of freedom in the greater Middle East. We will challenge the enemies of reform, confront the allies of terror and expect a higher standard from our friend.
To cut through the barriers of hateful propaganda, the Voice of America and other broadcast services are expanding their programming in Arabic and Persian. And soon, a new television service will begin providing reliable news and information across the region.
I will send you a proposal to double the budget of the National Endowment for Democracy and to focus its new work on the development of free elections and free markets, free press and free labor unions in the Middle East.
And above all, we will finish the historic work of democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq, so those nations can light the way for others and help transform a troubled part of the world.
America is a nation with a mission, and that mission comes from our most basic beliefs. We have no desire to dominate, no ambitions of empire. Our aim is a democratic peace, a peace founded upon the dignity and rights of every man and woman.
America acts in this cause with friends and allies at our side, yet we understand our special calling: This great republic will lead the cause of freedom.
In the last three years, adversity has also revealed the fundamental strengths of the American economy. We have come through recession and terrorist attack and corporate scandals and the uncertainties of war.
And because you acted to stimulate our economy with tax relief, this economy is strong and growing stronger.
You have doubled the child tax credit from $500 to $1,000, reduced the marriage penalty, begun to phase out the death tax, reduced taxes on capital gains and stock dividends, cut taxes on small businesses, and you have lowered taxes for every American who pays income taxes.
Americans took those dollars and put them to work, driving this economy forward. The pace of economic growth in the third quarter of 2003 was the fastest in nearly 20 years: new home construction, the highest in almost 20 years; homeownership rates, the highest ever. Manufacturing activity is increasing, inflation is low, interest rates are low, exports are growing, productivity is high, and jobs are on the rise.
These numbers confirm that the American people are using their money far better than government would have, and you were right to return it.
(APPLAUSE) America's growing economy is also a changing economy. As technology transforms the way almost every job is done, America becomes more productive and workers need new skills. Much of our job growth will be found in high-skilled fields like health care and biotechnology. So we must respond by helping more Americans gain the skills to find good jobs in our new economy.
All skills begin with the basics of reading and math, which are supposed to be learned in the early grades of our schools. Yet for too long, for too many children, those skills were never mastered.
By passing the No Child Left Behind Act, you have made the expectation of literacy the law of our country.
We're providing more funding for our schools -- a 36 percent increase since 2001. We are requiring higher standards. We are regularly testing every child on the fundamentals. We are reporting results to parents and making sure they have better options when schools are not performing. We are making progress toward excellence for every child in America.
But the status quo always has defenders. Some want to undermine the No Child Left Behind Act by weakening standards and accountability. Yet the results we require are really a matter of common sense: We expect third-graders to read and do math at the third-grade level. That's not asking too much.
Testing is the only way to identify and help students who are falling behind. This nation will not go back to the days of simply shuffling children along from grade to grade without them learning the basics.
I refuse to give up on any child. And the No Child Left Behind Act is opening the door of opportunity to all of America's children.
At the same time, we must ensure that older students and adults can gain the skills they need to find work now. Many of the fastest- growing occupations require strong math and science preparation and training beyond the high-school level.
So tonight I propose a series of measures called Jobs for the 21st Century. This program will provide extra help to middle- and high-school students who fall behind in reading and math, expand Advanced Placement programs in low-income schools, invite math and science professionals from the private sector to teach part-time in our high schools.
I propose larger Pell Grants for students who prepare for college with demanding courses in high school.
I propose increasing our support for America's fine community colleges, so they can...
I do so so they can train workers for industries that are creating the most new jobs.
By all these actions, we will help more and more Americans to join in the growing prosperity of our country.
Job training is important, and so is job creation. We must continue to pursue an aggressive, pro-growth economic agenda.
Congress has some unfinished business on the issue of taxes. The tax reductions you passed are set to expire. Unless you act...
Unless you act, the unfair tax on marriage will go back up. Unless you act, millions of families will be charged $300 more in federal taxes for every child. Unless you act, small businesses will pay higher taxes. Unless you act, the death tax will eventually come back to life.
Unless you act, Americans face a tax increase. What the Congress has given, the Congress should not take away. For the sake of job growth, the tax cuts you passed should be permanent.
Our agenda for jobs and growth must help small-business owners and employees with relief from needless federal regulation and protect them from junk and frivolous lawsuits.
Consumers and businesses need reliable supplies of energy to make our economy run. So I urge you to pass legislation to modernize our electricity system, promote conservation and make America less dependent on foreign sources of energy.
My administration is promoting free and fair trade, to open up new markets for America's entrepreneurs and manufacturers and farmers, to create jobs for American workers.
Younger workers should have the opportunity to build a nest egg by saving part of their Social Security taxes in a personal retirement account.
We should make the Social Security system a source of ownership for the American people. (APPLAUSE)
And we should limit the burden of government on this economy by acting as good stewards of taxpayers' dollars.
In two weeks, I will send you a budget that funds the war, protects the homeland and meets important domestic needs, while limiting the growth in discretionary spending to less than 4 percent.
This will require that Congress focus on priorities, cut wasteful spending and be wise with the people's money. By doing so, we can cut the deficit in half over the next five years.
Tonight I also ask you to reform our immigration laws so they reflect our values and benefit our economy.
I propose a new temporary-worker program to match willing foreign workers with willing employers when no Americans can be found to fill the job. This reform will be good for our economy, because employers will find needed workers in an honest and orderly system. A temporary-worker program will help protect our homeland, allowing border patrol and law enforcement to focus on true threats to our national security.
I oppose amnesty, because it would encourage further illegal immigration and unfairly reward those who break our laws.
My temporary-worker program will preserve the citizenship path for those who respect the law, while bringing millions of hardworking men and women out from the shadows of American life.
Our nation's health care system, like our economy, is also in a time of change. Amazing medical technologies are improving and saving lives. This dramatic progress has brought its own challenge, in the rising costs of medical care and health insurance.
Members of Congress, we must work together to help control those costs and extend the benefits of modern medicine throughout our country.
Meeting these goals requires bipartisan effort. And two months ago, you showed the way. By strengthening Medicare and adding a prescription drug benefit, you kept a basic commitment to our seniors: You are giving them the modern medicine they deserve.
(APPLAUSE) Starting this year, under the law you passed, seniors can choose to receive a drug discount card, saving them 10 to 25 percent off the retail price of most prescription drugs, and millions of low- income seniors can get an additional $600 to buy medicine.
Beginning next year, seniors will have new coverage for preventive screenings against diabetes and heart disease, and seniors just entering Medicare can receive wellness exams.
In January of 2006, seniors can get prescription drug coverage under Medicare. For a monthly premium of about $35, most seniors who do not have that coverage today can expect to see their drug bills cut roughly in half.
Under this reform, senior citizens will be able to keep their Medicare just as it is, or they can choose a Medicare plan that fits them best -- just as you, as members of Congress, can choose an insurance plan that meets your needs.
And starting this year, millions of Americans will be able to save money, tax-free, for their medical expenses in a health savings account.
I signed this measure proudly, and any attempts to limit the choices of our seniors or to take away their prescription drug coverage under Medicare will meet my veto.
On the critical issue of health care, our goal is to ensure that Americans can choose and afford private health care coverage that best fits their individual needs.
To make insurance more affordable, Congress must act to address rapidly rising health care costs. Small businesses should be able to band together and negotiate for lower insurance rates so they can cover more workers with health insurance.
I urge you to pass Association Health Plans.
I ask you to give lower-income Americans a refundable tax credit that would allow millions to buy their own basic health insurance.
By computerizing health records, we can avoid dangerous medical mistakes, reduce costs and improve care.
To protect the doctor-patient relationship and keep good doctors doing good work, we must eliminate wasteful and frivolous medical lawsuits.
And tonight I propose that individuals who buy catastrophic health care coverage, as part of our new health savings accounts, be allowed to deduct 100 percent of the premiums from their taxes.
A government-run health care system is the wrong prescription.
By keeping costs under control, expanding access and helping more Americans afford coverage, we will preserve the system of private medicine that makes America's health care the best in the world.
We are living in a time of great change -- in our world, in our economy, in science and medicine. Yet some things endure: courage and compassion, reverence and integrity, respect for differences of faith and race.
The values we try to live by never change. And they are instilled in us by fundamental institutions such as families and schools and religious congregations. These institutions, these unseen pillars of civilization, must remain strong in America, and we will defend them.
We must stand with our families to help them raise healthy, responsible children. And when it comes to helping children make right choices, there is work for all of us to do.
One of the worst decisions our children can make is to gamble their lives and futures on drugs. Our government is helping parents confront this problem with aggressive education, treatment and law enforcement.
Drug use in high school has declined by 11 percent over the past two years. Four hundred thousand fewer young people are using illegal drugs than in the year 2001.
In my budget, I have proposed new funding to continue our aggressive, community-based strategy to reduce demand for illegal drugs. Drug-testing in our schools has proven to be an effective part of this effort. So tonight I propose an additional $23 million for schools that want to use drug-testing as a tool to save children's lives.
The aim here is not to punish children, but to send them this message: We love you, and we do not want to lose you.
To help children make right choices, they need good examples. Athletics play such an important role in our society, but unfortunately, some in professional sports are not setting much of an example.
The use of performance-enhancing drugs like steroids in baseball, football and other sports is dangerous and it sends the wrong message: that there are shortcuts to accomplishment and that performance is more important than character.
So tonight I call on team owners, union representatives, coaches and players to take the lead, to send the right signal, to get tough and to get rid of steroids now.
To encourage right choices, we must be willing to confront the dangers young people face, even when they are difficult to talk about.
Each year, about 3 million teenagers contract sexually transmitted diseases that can harm them or kill them or prevent them from ever becoming parents.
In my budget, I propose a grassroots campaign to help inform families about these medical risks. We will double federal funding for abstinence programs so schools can teach this fact of life: Abstinence for young people is the only certain way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases.
Decisions children now make can affect their health and character for the rest of their lives. All of us -- parents and schools and government -- must work together to counter the negative influence of the culture and to send the right messages to our children.
A strong America must also value the institution of marriage. I believe we should respect individuals as we take a principled stand for one of the most fundamental, enduring institutions of our civilization.
Congress has already taken a stand on this issue by passing the Defense of Marriage Act, signed in 1996 by President Clinton. That statute protects marriage under federal law as the union of a man and a woman, and declares that one state may not redefine marriage for other states.
Activist judges, however, have begun redefining marriage by court order, without regard for the will of the people and their elected representatives. On an issue of such great consequence, the people's voice must be heard. If judges insist on forcing their arbitrary will upon the people, the only alternative left to the people would be the constitutional process. Our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage.
The outcome of this debate is important, and 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.
It's also important to strengthen our communities by unleashing the compassion of America's religious institutions. Religious charities of every creed are doing some of the most vital work in our country: mentoring children, feeding the hungry, taking the hand of the lonely.
Yet government has often denied social-service grants and contracts to these groups just because they have a cross or a Star of David or a crescent on the wall.
By executive order, I have opened billions of dollars in grant money to competition that includes faith-based charities. Tonight I ask you to codify this into law so people of faith can know that the law will never discriminate against them again.
In the past, we've worked together to bring mentors to the children of prisoners and provide treatment for the addicted and help for the homeless. Tonight I ask you to consider another group of Americans in need of help.
This year, some 600,000 inmates will be released from prison back into society. We know from long experience that if they can't find work or a home or help, they are much more likely to commit crime and return to prison.
So tonight, I propose a four-year, $300 million Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative to expand job training and placement services, to provide transitional housing and to help newly released prisoners get mentoring, including from faith-based groups.
America is the land of second chance, and when the gates of the prison open, the path ahead should lead to a better life.
For all Americans, the last three years have brought tests we did not ask for and achievements shared by all. By our actions, we have shown what kind of nation we are. In grief, we have found the grace to go on. In challenge, we rediscovered the courage and daring of a free people. In victory, we have shown the noble aims and good heart of America. And having come this far, we sense that we live in a time set apart.
I've been a witness to the character of the people of America, who have shown calm in times of danger, compassion for one another and toughness for the long haul. All of us have been partners in a great enterprise. And even some of the youngest understand that we are living in historic times. Last month a girl in Lincoln, Rhode Island, sent me a letter. It began, "Dear George W. Bush, if there is anything you know I, Ashley Pearson, age 2" -- "age 10, can do to help anyone, please send me a letter and tell me what I can do to save our country."
She added this P.S.: "If you can send a letter to the troops, please put, 'Ashley Pearson believes in you.'"
Tonight, Ashley, your message to our troops has just been conveyed. And yes, you have some duties yourself: Study hard in school. Listen to your mom and dad. Help someone in need. And when you and your friends see a man or woman in uniform, say, "Thank you."
And, Ashley, while you do your part, all of us here in this great chamber will do our best to keep you and the rest of America safe and free.
My fellow citizens, we now move forward with confidence and faith. Our nation is strong and steadfast. The cause we serve is right, because it is the cause of all mankind.
The momentum of freedom in our world is unmistakable. And it is not carried forward by our power alone. We can trust in that greater power who guides the unfolding of the years. And in all that is to come, we can know that His purposes are just and true.
May God continue to bless America.
ZAHN: The president is wrapping up his State of the Union address. The speech going just about 54 minutes. The president had rehearsed it at 45 minutes with no applause. As you heard, dozens and dozens of interruptions. The applause mainly coming from one side of the aisle.
Last year in his State of the Union address, the president showed he was willing to go to war with Saddam Hussein. This year, the president made it abundantly clear, he is prepared to go to battle with the Democrats.
One day after the Iowa caucuses, this president launched his reelection campaign and making sure the Democrats know that he will challenge them on every issue. That will to come to national security, the Patriot Act, education, healthcare. So now, it is up to the bitterly divided American public and bitterly divided Congress to decide whether to take the president's path or the Democrats'.
BLITZER: And our viewers saw the bitter division very dramatically throughout the speech. During so many of the key moments we saw Republicans stand with very enthusiastic applause, while Democrats oftentimes led by Ted Kennedy, the senior senator from Massachusetts, they remained seated. They refused to stand up. They refused to applaud on several of those issues, including the president's call to make permanent all of those tax cuts that he called for and to renew the Patriot Act. Many of those controversial provisions coming up for renewal next year.
BROWN: The president makes his way out of the chamber. He stops. He talks. He signs an autograph or two. Members have brought a guest, not more than one. They're at least not supposed to. He makes his way out of the chamber. Paula and Wolf and Jeff greenfield and Joe Klein are with us too. I agree with my colleagues here. I was a little struck by the president's decision to put that Patriot Act paragraph so high in the speech. That's a flag as red as the president's tie in the national debate that's about to unfold. Jeff, am I off point here?
GREENFIELD: No, I think, in fact, Wolf, several times throughout the speech, the president was taking shots across the bow, if you will, of his potential opponents.
The line that struck me, when the president said that we will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of the United States, I'll have a hunch that line was written before the Iowa caucuses, because Howard Dean is the one who talked about permission from the U.N. and it was a shot across the bow of John Kerry and General Clark and all of the Democrat whose were talking about the United Nations. That's a very tough way to describe that policy, and I think it's another indication of what you were talking about, Aaron.
BLITZER: You know, Jeff, it's Wolf. There was another shot across the bow as far as the presidential campaign is concerned. He seemed to be addressing Howard Dean directly when he said the world without Saddam Hussein is a better and safer place. And Jeff, as you well know, Howard Dean had insisted the capture of Saddam Hussein didn't necessarily make the world a safer place. I heard several references, several clear reactions from the president said setting the stage for what could be a very bitter presidential debate this year.
ZAHN: And no more...
GREENFIELD: Yes, and Wolf, I was going to suggest, Wolf, that twice the president referred to junk and frivolous and unnecessary lawsuits. And, you know, who became very famous and wealthy prosecuting those lawsuits, a gentleman named John Edwards. So I think it's fair to say that this speech had a lot of politics -- Wolf.
ZAHN: And nowhere was it more evident where the president dealt with weapons of mass destruction and cited the David Kay report, who he said identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction related programs and significant amounts of equipment Iraq concealed from the U.N. That's the point at which Senator Ted Kennedy was grimacing.
KLEIN: Right, well, that section of the speech, the foreign policy section of the speech was surprisingly defensive to me. And you know, we're going to see a Democratic response to the State of the Union. And this was the president's response to the Democratic presidential campaign. I kept track of the issues, where he went up against the Democrats. There was the Patriot Act. There was no child left behind, education. There were taxes. There was tort reform. There was privatization of Social Security. There was Medicare prescription drugs and health savings accounts. And especially, on the war on terror, he talked about the Democrats as if they were just a bunch of lawyers. He said they view terrorism more as a crime problem to be solved, mainly with law enforcement and indictments. This was, you know a remarkably combative speech.
ZAHN: It will be interesting to see the impact it has on the Democratic strategy in the days to come.
Joe Klein, Jeff Greenfield, thanks so much for your input tonight.
BROWN: The Democrats will get their moment in about five minutes and we'll hear what they have to say. And now, you've heard what we have to say. And most importantly, on a night like this, is to listen to what you have to say.
Jeff Flock has been in the Midwest. He's in Toledo, Ohio, tonight. He's been watching the speech with a number of people there. Jeff, good evening to you.
And how have they viewed it all in a state that is important and often a swing state?
FLOCK: Indeed, battle ground state. And Aaron, the president will be here tomorrow. We're here tonight. First of all, anybody change their mind, make a decision about who they're going to vote for this November based on this speech?
Anybody at all? Nobody.
Consuelo Hernandez (ph), 54 years old, registered Democrat, what was your headline?
CONSUELO, UNDECIDED: My headline was too much on the war for this. I wanted to hear more about the economy. I wanted to hear about jobs. And I definitely wanted to hear about healthcare.
FLOCK: You didn't get enough of that?
You got too much Iraq, too much terrorism?
CONSUELO: Yes, too much on the war. I want to know about job.
Michael Pazo (ph), Republican, voted for Bush last time.
Does that ring true for you?
Did you hear too much about the war?
MICHAEL, LEANING REPUBLICAN: I was glad to hear President Bush address the benefits that the Afghan and Iraqi people have realized from the war. And I also thought he put a very positive spin on the economy.
FLOCK: His headline was the war was worth it.
Does everybody here agree the war was worth it, everybody?
FLOCK: Everybody agrees the war was worth it.
Betty Valentine (ph) you headline?
BETTY, UNDECIDED: When we talked about the war, I was disappointed in the fact he didn't talk about going after Osama bin Laden, and I thought he was the one that started the whole race.
FLOCK: Bin Laden was not mentioned, that troubled you.
BETTY: Not at all. Yes it did.
FLOCK: Donovan Nichols (ph), college student, registered Republican, but your parents are Democrats?
DONOVAN, LEANING DEMOCRAT: Yes.
FLOCK: What did you make of this one?
Cast a deciding vote here tonight.
DONOVAN: I would have to agree with Consuelo, and say that I thought there was too much of an emphasis on war. I would really like to see -- being in higher education, and that being my career path, I would have like to have seen more -- Bush talk a little bit more on higher education, the importance.
FLOCK: Well, Wolf, you heard the headline there. I think this panel, University of Toledo, the since is they heard too much foreign policy stuff, too much war, too much terrorism. They want to hear about the issues that impact them, they feel, much more strongly -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Jeff. We'll be checking back with you. Right now Senator Ted Kennedy is joining us; just walked out of the chamber.
We saw you throughout the speech sometimes grimacing, sometimes, Senator, not very happy. What's your bottom-line reaction to what you heard from the president?
SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, this is an entirely different State of the Union than I heard, for example, over the period of the last weeks out in Iowa in those small towns and communities where people are really hurting.
The president was talking about Wall Street, but not really Main Street.
People are really hurting in terms of the cost of tuition, in terms of their health care costs and their health care coverage. They deplore the actions of the administration, in terms of trying to limit overtime against policemen, firemen and nurses.
And this, the rest of it, is pretty much the same kind of rhetoric that we've heard in the past.
One thing that we have learned over the past with President Bush is you want to see what he does, not what he says. Nothing illustrates that more clearly than the No Child Left Behind, which is unfunded and left six million children behind.
BLITZER: Let's go through some of the specific issues. We don't have a lot of time. But on Iraq, he didn't back down at all. He made a strong case that what he did was right.
KENNEDY: Yes, this administration had a predetermined plan to go to war with Iraq. And basically, they went to war with Iraq on faulty information, without sharing that information with the American people.
We are in Iraq -- all of us wanted to get rid of Saddam Hussein, and we are glad Saddam Hussein is gone. But we are weighted down in Iraq. They had no postwar program in Iraq, and we're weighted down in Iraq. And that has deflected our efforts and energy both in homeland security and also to pursue the problems of the terror and al Qaeda.
BLITZER: We are going to continue this conversation on another occasion, Senator.
KENNEDY: OK, that's fine. Very good to see you.
BLITZER: Thanks very much. Thanks for stopping by.
KENNEDY: Nice to see you. Thanks very much.
BLITZER: We're going to listen now, get ready to listen to the Democratic response. The Democrats getting ready, as they always do, to respond to the president of the United States. The Senate Democratic leader and the House Democratic leader, they will be speaking, Tom Daschle and Nancy Pelosi. Let's listen.
SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: Good evening. I'm Tom Daschle of South Dakota, the Democratic leader in the United States Senate.
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I'm Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives.
The state of our union is indeed strong, due to the spirit of the American people -- the creativity, optimism, hard work and faith of everyday Americans.
The State of the Union address should offer a vision that unites us as a people and priorities that move us toward the best America.
For inspiration, we look to our brave young men and women in uniform, especially those in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their noble service reminds us of our mission as a nation: to build a future worthy of their sacrifice.
Tonight, from the perspective of 10 years of experience on the Intelligence Committee working on national security issues, I express the Democrats' unbending determination to make the world safer for America -- for our people, our interest and our ideals.
Democrats have an unwavering commitment to ensure that America's armed forces remain the best-trained, best-led, best-equipped force for peace the world has ever known. Never before have we been more powerful militarily.
But even the most powerful nation in the history of the world must bring other nations to our side to meet common dangers.
The president's policies do not reflect that. He has pursued a go-it-alone foreign policy that leaves us isolated abroad and that steals resources we need for education and health care here at home.
The president led us into the Iraq war on the basis of unproven assertions without evidence. He embraced a radical doctrine of preemptive war unprecedented in our history, and he failed to build a true international coalition.
Therefore, American taxpayers are bearing almost all the cost: a colossal $120 billion and rising. More importantly, American troops are enduring almost all the casualties: tragically, 500 killed and thousands more wounded.
As a nation we must show our greatness, not just our strength. America must be a light to the world, not just a missile.
Forty-three years ago today, as a college student standing in the freezing cold outside this Capitol Building, I heard President Kennedy issue this challenge in his inaugural address: "My fellow citizens of the world," he said, "ask not what America will do for you, but what, working together, we can do for the freedom of man."
There is great wisdom in that, but in it there is also greater strength for our country and the cause of a safer world.
Instead of alienating our allies, let us work with them and international institutions, so that together we can prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and keep them out of the hands of terrorists.
Instead of billions of dollars in no-bid contracts for politically connected firms like Halliburton, and an insistence on American dominance in Iraq, let us share the burden and responsibility with others, so that together we can end the sense of American occupation and bring troops home safely when their mission is completed. Instead of the diplomatic disengagement that almost destroyed the Middle East peace process and aggravated the danger posed by North Korea, let us seek to forge agreements and coalitions, so that together with others we can address challenges before they threaten the security of the world.
We must remain focused on the greatest threat to the security of the United States: the clear and present danger of terrorism.
We know what we must do to protect America, but this administration is failing to meet the challenge. Democrats have a better way to ensure our homeland security.
One hundred percent of containers coming into our ports or airports must be inspected. Today, only 3 percent are inspected.
One hundred percent of chemical and nuclear plants in the United States must have high levels of security. Today, the Bush administration has tolerated a much lower standard.
One hundred percent communication in real time is needed for our police officers, firefighters and all of our first responders to prevent or respond to a terrorist attack. Today, the technology is there but the resources are not.
One hundred percent of the enriched uranium and other material for weapons of mass destruction must be secured. Today, the administration has refused to commit the resources necessary to prevent it from falling into the hands of terrorists.
America will be far safer if we reduce the chance of a terrorist attack in one of our cities than if we diminish the civil liberties of our people.
As a nation, we must do better to keep faith with our armed forces, their families and our veterans. Our men and women in uniform show their valor every day.
On the battlefield, our troops pledge to leave no soldier behind. Here at home, we must leave no veteran behind. We must ensure their health care, their pensions and their survivor benefits.
The year ahead offers great opportunity for progress and perhaps new perils still hidden in the shadows of an uncertain world. But you, the American people, have shown again and again that you are equal to any test.
Now your example summons all of us in government, Republicans and Democrats, to a higher standard. This is personal for all of us, in every community across this land.
As a mother of five, and now as a grandmother of five, I came into government to help make the future brighter for all of America's children. As much as at any time in my memory, the future of our country and our children is at stake. Democrats are committed to strengthening the state of our union, to reach for a safer, more prosperous America. Together, let us make America work for all Americans. Let us restore our rightful role of leadership in the world, working with others for the freedom of man.
I'm now proud to introduce my colleague, the outstanding Senate Democratic leader, Tom Daschle.
DASCHLE: Thank you, Leader Pelosi.
Let there be no doubt: The state of our union is strong -- stronger than the terrorists who seek to harm us and stronger than the challenges that confront us.
At the same time, we know that our union can be stronger still.
The president spoke of great goals, and America should never hesitate to push the boundaries of exploration. But neither should we shrink from the great goal of creating a more perfect union here at home.
In his speech, the president asked us to double the budget of the National Endowment for Democracy. He asked us to make permanent the tax cuts already passed. And he asked us to use Social Security money to pay for it.
For the last couple of weeks, I've been traveling through my home state of South Dakota, visiting the people and small towns that are America's backbone. The folks I met are good people. They're happy to help others around the world. But they're asking something, too: What about us? When do our priorities become America's priorities?
Rather than a society that restricts its rewards to a privileged few, we need an opportunity society that allows all Americans to succeed. Our opportunity society has at its foundation good jobs, a solid education and quality health care that is affordable and available.
We believe that we have to honor the promises we've made to the millions of families who worked hard, played by the rules and have earned a retirement of dignity.
Our first challenge is to strengthen the economy -- the right way. The true test of America's economic recovery is not measured simply in quarterly profit reports; it's measured in jobs.
The massive tax cuts that were supposed to spark an economic expansion have instead led to an economic exodus.
To make up for the 3 million private-sector jobs that have been lost on the president's watch, the economy would have to create 226,000 jobs a month through the end of his term. Last month, the economy created only 1,000 new jobs. That's not good enough.
America can't afford to keep rewarding the accumulation of wealth over the dignity of work. Instead of borrowing even more money to give more tax breaks to companies so that they can export even more jobs, we propose tax cuts and policies that will strengthen our manufacturing sector and create good jobs at good wages here at home.
We can also show our patriotism while strengthening agriculture in rural America by labeling all food products with their country of origin.
Education is the second key to our opportunity society.
Two years ago, the president signed a new education law. The heart of that law was a promise: The federal government would set high standards for every student and hold schools responsible for results. In exchange, schools would receive the resources to meet the new standards.
America's schools are holding up their end of the bargain; the president has not held up his. Millions of children are being denied the better teachers, smaller classes and extra help that they were promised.
At the same time, the president's tax cuts have put states in such a bind they're being forced to raise the cost of college. Since President Bush took office, the average tuition at a four-year public college has increased nearly $600. The America that our parents gave us was a place in which everyone had a chance to go to a good school and then to college, community college or vocational school, regardless of family income. Our children deserve nothing less.
Third, our opportunity society is built on the belief that affordable, available health care is not a luxury but a basic foundation for a truly compassionate society. Today, 43.6 million Americans -- almost all of them from working families -- have no health insurance. That's over 3.8 million more than when President Bush took office.
Those Americans lucky enough to have health insurance have seen their premiums go up each of the last three years. The increase in premiums that middle-income families have seen over the past three years is actually larger than the four-year tax cut that they've been promised. This is an invisible tax increase on middle- class families.
Tonight, three years into his administration, the president acknowledged that the rapidly rising cost of health care and the increasing number of Americans with no health coverage are problems.
But the tax cuts he proposed are not a solution. Tax cuts will do little to make health care more affordable or reduce the number of people without insurance, and they will weaken health coverage for those who have it now.
When I was driving around South Dakota this summer, I met a nurse in Sioux Falls who has cancer. She told me she couldn't afford the $1,500 a month her drugs cost.
She told me that she was going to die, that she was a lost cause. "But," she said, "we must solve this problem. Don't turn more people into lost causes."
We believe that the federal government should use the power of 40 million Americans to lower prescription drug prices and to allow us to get more affordable drugs from Canada, instead of forbidding both. Drug companies and insurance companies are the only ones who benefit from that restriction, not the American people, and that's why we want to change it.
And in our vision of an opportunity society, promises made to those who have worked a lifetime will be honored in retirement. That's why we believe that America's pension system needs to be strengthened and that Social Security's benefit should a guarantee, not a gamble.
Only when every American who wants to work can, when every child goes to a good school and has the opportunity to go further, only when health care is available and affordable for every American, when a lifetime of work guarantees retirement with dignity, and when America is secure at home and our strength abroad is respected, not resented -- only then will we have a union as strong as the American people.
Thank you for listening.
Good night, and God bless America.
BROWN: The Democratic response. Both sides now have had their say. And I think it's fair to say the campaign is on. Hope you'll join us for a special edition of NEWSNIGHT an hour from now. I'm Aaron Brown in Washington. Good night.
BLITZER: Good night, Aaron. I'm Wolf Blitzer. Good night from Statuary Hall here on Capitol Hill -- Paula.
ZAHN: And before we leave you, if you were wondering how many applause breaks there were in the president's speech tonight, a grand total of 69. Thank you all for joining us tonight for CNN's special coverage of President Bush's State of the Union address. I'm Paula Zahn. Good night. "LARRY KING LIVE" starts right now.
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