- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 21, 2004

The following are excerpts from the Democratic response to President Bush’s State of the Union speech last night, delivered by House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota:

Mrs. Pelosi: 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 interests 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 history 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 the 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 pre-emptive 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. …

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 such as 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 our 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. …

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.

Mr. Daschle: 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 make permanent the tax cuts already passed. He asked us to create more tax shelters for the wealthy, 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. And the folks I met were asking something, too: “What about us? When do our priorities become America’s priorities?” …

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 President Bush’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. …

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.

At the same time, the president’s tax cuts have put states in such a bind that 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 by nearly $600. The America 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 of 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 larger than the four-year tax cut 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 solutions he proposed — more tax cuts — are not the right ones. More 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 now have it. …

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 a retirement with dignity, and when America is secure at home and our strength abroad is respected and not resented; only then will we have a union as strong as the American people. That’s the America we want to build, because that’s the union the American people deserve.

Thank you for listening. Good night, and God bless America.


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