- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 28, 2007

In January, we normally look forward to watching our favorite football team make it to the Super Bowl, celebrating the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., and the president of the United States inspiring and challenging us in the annual State of the Union address.

For George W. Bush, the stakes in his second-to-last address were high. Most Americans wanted to hear something different — a new tone, a new attitude or a new direction on everything from the war in Iraq to domestic issues. Once again, our president failed us.

At a time when intelligent, innovative, coherent and measured solutions are needed so desperately, the president instead recycled unilateral, tired, ideological proposals that don’t address the core issues of the problems he seeks to solve.

What passed for the president’s new mission in Iraq was continued justification for the war in Iraq (once again recycling references to the horrific attack of September 11, 2001) and a not-so-veiled threat to Iran. The president asks us to trust him, to take his proposal seriously, for Democrats to put aside their partisanship and work with him. But he gave us little to work with.

For most of us, receiving the president’s words with simple skepticism would be a gift to the administration. His credibility is as flimsy as the “intelligence” they fed us to justify the war. So we listen to his speeches with the same cynicism and mistrust we afford snake oil salesmen. That’s those of us who listen. The rest of the public has just stopped.

Why? Because the president continues to give the same tired prescriptions. Just last year, he told us the state of the nation was strong. That we were confronting times of hardship and uncertainty but that we must not back down, must not surrender, must not accept any outcome but victory. That rhetoric cost our nation another 822 lives of its sons and daughters in Iraq. And now he is using the same tired rhetoric to send another 21,000-plus troops into the middle of a sectarian civil war, against the counsel of his generals, advisers and a growing bipartisan chorus in Congress.

There are so many questions the newly empowered Democrats must begin to ask President Bush: If “No Child Left Behind” is meant to fix our broken public education system, why has the administration underfunded it for the last five years when they held every branch of government?

Should the people of the Gulf coastal states still recovering from the nation’s worst natural disaster assume from the president’s silence on the topic that he has forgotten about the thousands upon thousands of Hurricane Katrina (and Rita) victims still living in Third World conditions just waiting to go home? How will tax credits help those for whom health insurance is a luxury item because daily needs like food and an affordable, safe place to live remain unmet? But the question on the tip of my tongue is: Mr. President, how dumb do you think we are?

So much has changed in the last year, how did you possibly think the arguments of old would satisfy the needs of the American people today?

Perhaps we just don’t understand Mr. Bush. We certainly don’t understand his objectives or what motivates him. What we do understand is that global warming, rising health-care costs and the war in Iraq all are serious issues. And in the next two years, the Bush administration would be wise to stop acting like puff-chested 11-year-olds staking out and laying claim to the school yard. They must act like adults and acknowledge that the weight of the world truly rests on their shoulders.

I expect the same from all members of Congress, regardless of party affiliation. There are now less than two years left until the next national election. It’s time to get serious.

Mr. President, the ball is still in your court. We need solutions — fast. Listen to your supporters and opponents and lead the way. We need serious debate and considered dialogue. We need real bipartisanship and problem-solving.

With your poll ratings colder than the East Coast winter, you have nothing to lose. Right now, Americans simply aren’t trusting where you’re trying to take us.

America is ready to move forward. So, I implore you, either lead us, we 300 million, or move out of the way and let someone who can.

Donna Brazile is a political commentator on CNN, ABC and NPR, contributing columnist to Roll Call newspaper and former campaign manager for Al Gore.

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