TOPICS > Politics

View From Tucson

January 21, 2004 at 12:00 AM EDT


TERENCE SMITH: Welcome to you all, and thank you for joining us to listen to the president’s State of the Union address. We want to get your reaction, what you thought. Jim Driscoll, you’re a Vietnam veteran, a Democrat. What did you think of what you heard from President Bush tonight? What jumped out at you as important and interesting?

JIM DRISCOLL, Democrat: Well, I was astonished at this late date he would repeat each one of the lies about Iraq, that there were weapons of mass destruction, that somehow Saddam Hussein was connected with the attack on 9/11. It’s unbelievable with all of the evidence out there that he would repeat those.

He never mentioned the 500 young men and women who have died as a result of these lies, and his own war college, the Army War College, has come out with a report that says there’s no connection between what’s happening in Iraq and solving the problem of terrorism. In fact, it’s getting in the way of solving the fight against terrorism.

TERENCE SMITH: Blanca, you are a Republican, and in fact the cofounder of the Arizona Latino Republican Association. What did you think of what you heard tonight, and the point that Jim is making?

BLANCA ESPARZA, Republican: Well, I was encouraged by what President Bush said. He really outlined a bold and progressive domestic agenda. I think with tax incentives for health care, privatizing accounts for Social Security, you know, continuing reform with education and job growth, and also immigration reform, those are all themes on the domestic front that we need to be focusing on here.

And I think starting with national security, just said, we are still very strong on national security. That is still the main focus of this administration. You know, I think it’s unfortunate that 500 people had to die in Iraq, but as President Bush pointed out, it was the right thing to do. We are the republic that are the freedom fighters here in the world.


AURELEO (LEO) ROSANO, Independent: I think he’s a pretty good salesman. I think he… I think we have about a 50-50 chance of establishing or helping to establish some representative government in Iraq, and if that occurs, it will be a coup. Maybe there’s been some exaggerations, but I think every salesman exaggerates.

TERENCE SMITH: But he did say that had the U.S. failed to act, weapons of mass destruction programs in Iraq would continue to this day.

JIM DRISCOLL: But what gives us the right? Saddam Hussein was our guy. We were fine with him being a dictator, fine with him oppressing his people. What gives us the right to go around the world and say “this country, roll over, play dead, give us what we want, give us your oil” — in this case, which he has taken possession of — “or else we’re going to come in with massive force.”

AURELEO ROSANO: In the family of nations, the U.S. is like an 800-pound baby, and it’s got a good heart, but it breaks furniture, and it knocks over lamps, and that’s what we do now.

TERENCE SMITH: Before we leave the first part of the president’s speech, he called for a renewal of the Patriot Act. Harry Bonfield, what did you think of that proposal to renew the Patriot Act?

HARRY BONFIELD, Republican: I think that the act itself should be renewed, but there should be due regard to personal freedoms and rights. Although the constitution is often said to not be a suicide pact, we have to remember that another principle is the constitution follows the flag, but never fully catches up with it.

So when you have people here in the United States that are not citizens, I don’t believe they are entitled to all of the same rights that an American citizen is.

TERENCE SMITH: Vivian Juan-Sanders, as a native American and, in fact, tribal chairwoman, give me your perspective on the speech. What spoke to you?

VIVIAN JUAN-SAUNDERS: Well, he spent 35 minutes on homeland security issues. That’s important to the Tohono O’Odham Nation. We have 75 miles of international border that is adjacent to our reservation, and that’s the largest number of miles in terms of nationwide.

We support renewing the Patriot Act. I heard him refer to, for example, immigration policy that reflects our values. For the Tohono O’Odham Nation, our value is to share, to offer food and water to people traveling through our lands, and we have done that historically. However today, we have 1,500 undocumented immigrants crossing our lands every day, and that places us a very awkward position in that the burden on our resources is tremendous: 40 percent poverty rate, 42 percent unemployment rate. We ought to be spending our own tribal dollars on those issues.

TERENCE SMITH: Rene Franco, as an immigration law counselor and someone who came to this country yourself twenty, twenty-five years ago from Guatemala, in these proposals, do you find the answers to the problems you were sketching out on immigration?

RENE FRANCO, Independent: No, no I don’t. Every year we talk, we encounter hundreds of thousands of immigrants. Families that have been residing in our community for five, ten, fifteen years — they want to have a chance with President Bush’s immigration bill. They wouldn’t have a chance to lead a life, and these are families that have children born in the U.S., they have one, two jobs, paying taxes. You know, when he said about immigrants growing the economy, supposedly they get legal rights, they are already part of the economy.

And the boom… you know, the economy in a great part has been, you know, the efforts of the immigrants, not only in Arizona, but everywhere. Everywhere that I travel, I see immigrants working in the restaurants, hotels, landscaping, child care, you know? And those are the jobs that Americans don’t do. So I felt… I wanted to see more, you know, as an independent and somebody that is now listening to what the Democrats are saying and listening to what the Republicans are saying, I wanted to see more in the direction of immigration.

TERENCE SMITH: Let me ask you about some of his economic proposals. He began by saying that in essence, the tax cuts have worked, have stimulated the economy, are adding jobs, and of course, he called on Congress to make the tax cuts permanent. Should they be made permanent?




MIKE BROWN, Republican: Well, we’re a very tax-based society, and, you know, the… what happens out there is that businesses… in order to have all of the government programs, you have to have taxes, okay?

So to create some taxes to us, we can then take that money and put it into restaurants and buying cars and going to movies, and then the people that work the at those places — and there’s where you start creating jobs. Then those people can go out and do the things that they do. Even this war, as bad as war is, is creating… you know, we have a military plant here that makes missiles, and those people now have jobs. It’s just that economic cycle that continues, and we keep the money moving through the economy instead of, you know, just sitting there.

JANI RADEBAUGH, Independent: It’s difficult to see how we can fund the programs that are so essential to the country if we continue to cut taxes. One thing that’s pretty close to me right now is that the university suffered quite a bit when we cut taxes. I understand that’s state money, but I think there’s some trickle down.

So in Arizona, they have suffered tremendously this past couple of years, and many programs had to be cut straight out of the universities. We face, really, some dire situations if we don’t continue to put money into the universities. So it’s hard for me to see there are benefits in cutting taxes, strictly, and to maintain them, you know, when we can’t see what the future is going to hold.

BLANCA ESPARZA: Let’s talk about the death tax really quick, though. That’s something that’s good for Latinos, specifically minorities. Because if we repeal that death tax permanently, we know that there are two million Latino small business owners in America that will be able pass down those businesses from generation to generation to generation, and hopefully those businesses can grow to medium and large companies.

JIM DRISCOLL: You have to begin at the beginning. President Bush came into office with a huge surplus, right? Then he did all of these tax cuts, now we’ve a huge deficit. He has lost something like 2.3 million jobs. The tax cuts don’t create new jobs.

TERENCE SMITH: Here tonight he is calling for a job-training program, for more education, and more funding.


TAMANU WANAMAKER, Democrat: Where are they going to work if there’s no jobs out there for you to have?

JIM DRISCOLL: Put it in perspective…

TAMANU WANAMAKER: There’s not that many jobs out there. He said that home ownership is at a rise and unemployment is going… unemployment is not going down. You may have homeowners, but you also have bankruptcy, which increased.

You have foreclosures that increased, welfare increased. You have so many people who are unemployed today than you have ever had probably in a long time in this country, and he’s responsible.

TERENCE SMITH: Okay, we are out of time, I’m sorry to say, but I want to thank all of you for joining us.