- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 31, 2002

President Bush's first State of the Union speech echoed Teddy Roosevelt's favorite motto, "Speak softly but carry a big stick." Mr. Bush spoke softly, but forcefully, of his determination to prosecute the global war against terrorism. Comparing trained terrorists to "ticking time bombs," Mr. Bush proclaimed, "I will not stand by as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons."

Those regimes include Iraq, Iran and North Korea, which Mr. Bush declared an "axis of evil." Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad were also singled out as members of the terrorist underworld, and as such, potential targets.

While Mr. Bush did not go into specifics, he didn't really need to. The presence of Afghanistan's interim leader, Hamid Karzai, and its new minister of women's affairs, Dr. Sima Samar, were unmistakable reminders of "freedom's power," even as the presence of Johnny "Mike" Spann's widow, Shannon, symbolized "freedom's price."

The financial cost of defending freedom will be even higher if Congress properly approves Mr. Bush's call for a $48 billion increase in defense spending and doubled funding for homeland security. It should. As Mr. Bush pointed out, the military must not only fight the current war, but also rebuild from the procurement holiday of the last decade. Homeland security demands both a working missile defense system and improved defenses against bioterrorism.

Homeland security is closely tied to economic security, and Mr. Bush properly prescribed economic growth as the cure for the current recession. Congress should heed Mr. Bush's proposals to speed up tax relief and make the current tax cuts permanent. Those tax cuts will be better used by individuals with jobs, and nearly 700,000 jobs could be created if the Senate sees fit to give the president's energy plan a square deal. Mr. Bush's call for restrained congressional spending even won him a fist-pumping motion from Vice President Dick Cheney.

Mr. Bush restrained the length of his rhetoric and the number of his proposals. Even with an enthusiastic audience (which gave him almost one ovation per minute), Mr. Bush still finished his oration in 48 minutes about half the time talem by his windy predecessor, Bill Clinton, who spoke for 89 minutes in his last State of the Union. Instead of the sprawling 104 proposals put forth by Mr. Clinton in 2000, Mr. Bush presented only 39, but few doubt that he will deliver on them.

Underlying Mr. Bush's steely determination was his seemingly unquenchable optimism. In closing he proclaimed, "Steadfast in our purpose, we now press on … And in this great conflict, my fellow Americans, we will see freedom's victory." With that, the plain-spoken Texan might have even outdone the Rough Rider.


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