- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 28, 2003

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 (UPI) — College students were riveted by President George W. Bush's talk of possible war with Iraq in his State of the Union address Tuesday evening, but divided over whether he made his case.

Georgetown University student Marko Liias, president of the school's College Democrats, watched the speech with two Democrats and a Republican.

"The Iraq portion was the only time we all listened intently," he said, adding that he agreed with the president. "It's now sort of in the United Nations' court. It's time for the U.N. to step up and uphold the promises they've made already."

Margaret Rendall, secretary of the University of Texas at Austin Republican Club, said the president connected with Americans and made a convincing case against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

"He let the people know that children of prisoners are on his mind. He established a valid case for an imposing action America might take against Iraq," she said.

Not all were convinced by the president's words. Republican Josh Meaders, a University of New Mexico student, said he was concerned by Bush's call to action regardless of whether the rest of the world is on board.

"I was upset with the fact that we don't need the rest of the world. We do make our own decisions but we don't need to go against the world, we need more people with us. We need more allies than enemies. We have enough enemies right now," he said.

Some were frightened by the president's stern words. Sarah Klock, president of the University of Minnesota-Morris's Democratic Farmer Labor Party, said she feared for the safety of her high school friends who had joined the military to help pay for college.

"Being a 19-year-old college student with several of my friends (in the military) … I don't want to see my friends going off to war," she said.

Bush's speech didn't hold enough specifics to convince Klock that the country needs to head to war.

"Maybe he knows more than we do but without giving any clear reasons as to what's going on, it's kind of hard to believe him. He needs to give clear reasons and clear evidence for that," she said.

Yoni Goldstein, an anti-war activist at the University of Michigan, said he was disgusted by Bush's speech. "He spoke in such a vague rhetoric," he said.

"He did place his statement about Iran and (North) Korea before Iraq, which to me represented a double standard. He seemed in favor of peaceful negotiations with these countries, yet his rhetoric against Iraq was hostile and unwilling to accept diplomacy, which I'm in favor of," he said.

Goldstein said he was relieved that Bush didn't declare war on Iraq and that the U.N. meeting was set for next week, but he added: "It was kind of disturbing when he equated America's aim with that of God."

The speech will spur on anti-war protests at college campuses and throughout the country, predicted Stas Gayshan, Boston College Democratic Club president.

"Nothing in it that surprised me. As we get closer to war we'll see the anti-war movement get stronger," said Gayshan.

Students split more down traditional party lines in regard to domestic issues such as the economy, environment and health care.

Bush proposed income tax reductions set for 2004 and 2006 be made effective this year; an end to dividend taxes; and removal of the so-called "marriage penalty."

"Every day we are confronted with the economy and unemployment," said Rendell of the University of Texas. He said he wouldn't allow problems to continue until the next administration. The dividend plan will be successful … millions of retired people get money from dividends. His tax cuts are not directed toward the rich."

Florida State University Democratic Club President Richard Siegel said Bush is leading the country down the wrong track.

"He's making irresponsible tax cuts, mostly for wealthy Americans," he said. "I enjoy a country with a sound economy, a clean healthy environment, and at peace. What President Bush proposed tonight is in violation of all three of those."

Andrea Meyer, a University of Texas at Austin Democrat, disagreed, said Bush is concentrating not on domestic problems but on Iraq.

"All (Bush) is trying to do is drum up support for the war or whatever pet project he has going on. It seems those projects draw attention away from domestic problems," she said.


(Jenifer Mehigan and Agustin Armendariz contributed to this story.)

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