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Editorial Page Editors Respond to State of the Union Address

President Bush's State of the Union address on Tuesday was met with varied reaction from around the country. Jeffrey Brown speaks with three regional editorial page editors for a sample of local reaction to the address.

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    And joining me for a sample of views are three editorial page editors: Frances Coleman of the Mobile Press-Register; Bruce Dold of the Chicago Tribune; and Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

    Cynthia, why don't you start us off here with your overall reaction to last night's speech by the president?

  • CYNTHIA TUCKER, Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

    Well, I was underwhelmed. Most of what I heard I expected to hear, of course.

    The president had already laid out his strategy of escalating American involvement in Iraq; he had made a major speech on that. So that wasn't surprising.

    His health care initiative had already been laid out, much of it, and it's pretty much dead on arrival in a Democratic Congress, because they're not persuaded, and neither am I, that it's going to increase insurance for the uninsured.

    And I basically agreed with the Sierra Club's representative on energy initiatives. I didn't hear anything that was aggressive enough, so I was underwhelmed by the president's speech.


    Frances Coleman, underwhelmed? Did you see the same speech?

  • FRANCES COLEMAN, Mobile Press-Register:

    No, I think that the glass that Cynthia thinks is half-empty I saw as more half-full. I saw a quietly confident president who realized that he needs to take a mild approach, given the setting, a conciliatory approach.

    I thought he did that. I thought he was firm when it came to discussion of the war in Iraq. I thought he laid out a pretty nice list of domestic proposals, some of which, as Cynthia said, we know are dead on arrival.

    And I remembered in all of that that we've been talking about alternative fuels now for, what, 25 or 30 years, so I wasn't too optimistic about that.

    But, overall, I saw a man who understood that the Congress is not as receptive to some of his ideas as he wished, but who understands that he's still the president. He's still the commander-in-chief. He's still got the bully pulpit, and he'll use it.


    Bruce Dold, pick up on that, about the president himself. Were we seeing last night a diminished somehow president, or someone who knows he still has some strengths, or both?

  • BRUCE DOLD, Chicago Tribune:

    I thought it was a very sober speech, almost apologetic. I think it was smart for him to limit his domestic agenda; I think that was a recognition that he's not going to set the domestic agenda. It's going to be set by the Democrats in Congress.

    I thought his introduction of Nancy Pelosi was incredibly gracious, and I think that was important, because he's going to have to work very carefully with her.

    And I think, you know, the upside for Bush is that maybe he sees where he stands now, Bill Clinton in 1994, and maybe he sees that, you know, Bill Clinton in some ways had a godsend when Republicans took over. He got welfare reform by compromise. He got a balanced budget by compromise. And Clinton wouldn't have gotten that if his own party had stayed in power.

    I think Bush, by setting out some doable things — and I think immigration is doable, health care may be doable — may find that he does get some accomplishments on a domestic agenda that he hasn't seen, really, since his first year in office.