- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 30, 2002

President Bush last night used his first official State of the Union address to say the war against terrorism "is only beginning" and to single out an "axis of evil" that poses the next terrorist threat to America.
Buoyed by sky-high approval ratings and cheered 77 times by thunderous applause from both houses of Congress, he focused on and yoked the three subjects that are the biggest concerns among voters: fighting global terrorism abroad, beefing up homeland security and getting the economy growing again.
"We will prevail in the war, and we will defeat this recession," Mr. Bush vowed.
Mr. Bush pointedly used the term "axis," the formal term for the World War II alliance among Japan, Italy and Adolf Hitler's Germany.
Referring by name to Iraq, Iran and North Korea, Mr. Bush said, "States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world."
But in the 48-minute address, his first to a joint session of Congress since the immediate aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the president cautioned victories in the war on terrorism will not be quick or easy.
"As we gather tonight, our nation is at war, our economy is in recession and the civilized world faces unprecedented dangers," he said. "Yet the state of our union has never been stronger.
"We last met in an hour of shock and suffering," he added. "In four short months, our nation has comforted the victims, begun to rebuild New York and the Pentagon, rallied a great coalition."
The Democratic response from House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt praised the president abroad, but concentrated on domestic policy and mentioned one topic Mr. Bush did not: Enron.
"I want to commend the president for his strong and patriotic message," the Missouri Democrat said, but, he added, "we want to work together to create a universal pension system that … protects employees from the next Enron."
While denouncing the terrorist attacks, Mr. Bush pointed out that they had stirred Americans to re-examine their priorities in life. He sought to build on this new spirituality and civic-mindedness by issuing an extraordinary challenge to individual citizens.
"My call tonight is for every American to commit at least two years 4,000 hours over the rest of your lifetime to the service of your neighbors and your nation," Mr. Bush said. "If you aren't sure how to help, I've got a good place to start."
The president then announced the formation of USA Freedom Corps, dedicated to responding to domestic crises, rebuilding communities and "extending American compassion throughout the world."
Ignoring calls by Democrats to focus more on the economy and less on the war, Mr. Bush tried hard to prevent the nation from lapsing into a false sense of security in the wake of military victories in Afghanistan.
"What we have found in Afghanistan confirms that, far from ending there, our war against terror is only beginning," the president said. "Most of the 19 men who hijacked planes on September 11th were trained in Afghanistan's camps and so were thousands of others.
"Thousands of dangerous killers, schooled in the methods of murder, often supported by outlaw regimes, are now spread throughout the world like ticking time bombs set to go off without warning," he added.
Although the administration generally has refrained from mentioning specific regimes when it comes to potential terrorist targets after Afghanistan, Mr. Bush showed no such compunction last night.
He rattled off a laundry list of nations that "sponsor terror" and "threaten America" by seeking chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
"North Korea is a regime arming with missiles and weapons of mass destruction, while starving its citizens," the president said. "Iran aggressively pursues these weapons and exports terror, while an unelected few repress the Iranian people's hope for freedom."
Mr. Bush saved the bulk of his rhetoric for Iraq, which he said "continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror." He groused that Iraq continued to bar U.N. weapons inspectors from its nuclear, chemical and biological facilities.
"By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger," he said.
"They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred," he added. "They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic."
In a cryptic warning, the president vowed: "The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons."
But when asked by The Washington Times last night whether the president was identifying the next targets of the war on terrorism, a senior administration official warned not to "read too much" into the president's remarks.
Mr. Bush also mentioned nations that had been infested by terrorists, including the Philippines, Bosnia and Somalia. He even specified several terrorist organizations, including those that operate in Israel and other parts of the Middle East.
"A terrorist underworld including groups like Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Jaish-e-Mohammed operates in remote jungles and deserts, and hides in the centers of large cities," he said.
"Some governments will be timid in the face of terror," he said. "And make no mistake: If they do not act, America will."
The president also called for doubling funding for a "sustained strategy of homeland security, focused on four key areas: bioterrorism, emergency response, airport and border security, and improved intelligence."
He also reiterated his pledge to give the U.S. military its biggest spending boost in two decades. The money would be used for modernizing weapons systems, building a missile defense shield providing soldiers, sailors and airmen with another pay raise.
"While the cost of freedom and security is high, it is never too high," Mr. Bush said. "Whatever it costs to defend our country, we will pay."
The president acknowledged his "budget will run a deficit that will be small and short-term, so long as Congress restrains spending and acts in a fiscally responsible way."
Turning to the economy, Mr. Bush articulated a recovery program based upon his legislative priorities, several of which have not been enacted. These include his energy plan, trade promotion authority and additional tax cuts, all of which the president believes will create jobs.
"When America works, America prospers, so my economic security plan can be summed up in one word: jobs," the president said.
It was no accident that the president renamed his economic recovery plan an "economic security plan." It was an attempt by the president to fuse the war and economy into a single, overarching theme of "security." He believes the economy cannot be separated from the war on terrorism because prosperity and national security are so interdependent.
Last night, the president called on Congress to tackle the economy in "the same spirit of cooperation we have applied to our war on terrorism."
The economy was not the only domestic issue Mr. Bush addressed last night. He also called for tighter immigration rules and reforms of Medicare and Social Security.
Unlike his August speech outlining his policy on stem-cell research, which was tightly guarded in advance, last night's address had been road-tested for days in a series of minor speeches.
The only real suspense was whether Vice President Richard B. Cheney would attend.
In a show of defiance to America's enemies, Mr. Cheney, who has generally avoided Mr. Bush's public appearances since September 11, took his place just over the president's right shoulder in the well of the House chamber.
In keeping with tradition that sequesters one member of the Cabinet away from the speech for security reasons, Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton did not attend.
Although Mr. Bush resisted Democratic dares to mention the politically radioactive topic of Enron Corp., he talked in general terms about the need for "corporate responsibility."
The president praised his wife, Laura Bush, "for the strength and calm and comfort she brings to our nation in crisis."
The first lady sat next to Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai, who sat next to Shannon Spann, widow of CIA operative Johnny "Mike" Spann, who was killed in a prison uprising in Afghanistan.
Behind Mrs. Bush sat American Airlines flight attendants Hermis Moutardier and Christina Jones, who, law enforcement officials say, helped subdue Richard Reid as he tried to ignite explosives in his shoe on a trans-Atlantic flight.
Next to Miss Jones was Teamsters President James P. Hoffa, who earlier this month endorsed the president's energy program. Although the Teamsters endorsed Al Gore for president, they have joined with carpenters, seafarers and labor unions to proclaim the energy package an important source of union jobs.
In closing his speech, Mr. Bush returned to the events of September 11 and spoke of the power of religion.
"The last time I spoke here, I expressed the hope that life would return to normal," he said. "In some ways, it has. In others, it never will.
"We've come to know truths that we will never question: Evil is real and it must be opposed. Beyond all differences of race and creed, we are one country, mourning together and facing danger together.
"Deep in the American character, there is honor, and it is stronger than cynicism," he concluded. "Many have discovered again that even in tragedy especially in tragedy God is near."

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