- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 (UPI) — Democrats responded to President George W. Bush's State of the Union Address on Tuesday night by conveying their support for the president's foreign policy but slamming his domestic policies on every front.

Washington State Gov. Gary Locke, speaking on behalf of the National Democratic Governors' Association, was critical of the president's economic policy, tax cut proposals, energy and education initiatives and prescription drug benefits programs.

But while he assailed Bush's domestic policies, Locke cheered the administration's foreign affairs and defense activities. He hinted only mildly at the need for the United States to cooperate more with its allies on the question of Iraq.

"We support the president in the course he has followed so far — working with Congress, working with the United Nations, insisting on strong and unfettered inspections," said Locke. "We must convince the world that Saddam Hussein is not America's problem alone — he's the world's problem."

But soon after Locke lauded Bush's approach to Iraq, he said that the needed domestic unity and strength is lacking. Locke's speech took a more critical tone as he spoke of a "limping" economy that lacks the needed "recovery." He spoke of job cuts, a "massive" government deficit and budget crises in local governments.

The cure for the sickness, Locke said, was to jump-start the economy through benefits for middle-class families, businesses and municipalities. The Democrats' plan, Locke said, would create savings for Social Security and homeland defense, without inflating the deficit.

"We shouldn't spend hundreds of billions of dollars on a plan that helps neither the economy nor the families that need it most while making it harder to save Social Security and invest in health care and education," said Locke. He warned that Bush's plans would raise interest rates, stifle growth, curb home ownership and sacrifice the working class for the sake of the rich.

"Under the President's proposal to eliminate taxes on stock dividends, the top 1 percent — that's people who earn over $300,000 a year — would get more tax relief than the bottom 95 percent of taxpayers combined. That's wrong," said Locke.

Locke also criticizes the "Leave No Child Behind" legislation as all talk and no action, and he said that the White House's prescription drug benefit puts seniors "at risk."

He also praised the government's bipartisan progress on the environment and energy but said the nation should not drill for oil in Alaska.

Locke ended with praise for traditional liberal values — such as affirmative action and racial diversity — and promised to uphold job creation and homeland security.

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