Democrats seeking to challenge President Bush in his bid for re-election used the occasion of his State of the Union address to tout their own proposals and question whether the president could be trusted on the war on terrorism and homefront economic issues.
“I don’t agree with his premise that the war in Iraq was part of the war on terror,” Wesley Clark told NBC’s “Today” on Wednesday. “We really don’t know why we went to war with Saddam Hussein. ... Why send people to attack a country when it didn’t pose an imminent threat to the United States and wasn’t associated with those who did the damage on 9-11?”
Bush told the nation Tuesday night that the war on terrorism was not over. Clark commented, “It might have been if he’d stayed in Afghanistan instead of taking us into Iraq to go after Saddam Hussein.”
John Kerry, who watched the speech in the home of supporters in New Hampshire, said Bush failed to deliver on a promise to create 250,000 jobs last month when only 1,000 new jobs were recorded. “Americans should be able to trust that what the president tells them is true,” he said.
“After four years in office, this president still doesn’t understand what’s happening in living rooms across this country,” Kerry said. “Paul O’Neill is right: because this president only hears the special interests and lobbyists, he doesn’t see what’s happening in our economy, in the workplace and to families everywhere.”
A week until New Hampshire votes
Bush’s address came one week before the New Hampshire primary and the day after Kerry won the party’s Iowa caucuses. He and the other major candidates — caucus runner-up John Edwards, Howard Dean, Joe Lieberman and Clark — sounded their campaign themes in their criticism of the president.
Edwards said the president had no policies for ending the divide separating Americans on taxes, health care and education.
“What this president fails to understand is that we still live in two different Americas: one for the privileged few, and another for everybody else,” Edwards said. “Instead of proposing ideas that would help heal our great divides, he is dividing us even further and believes that compassionate language and empty slogans will make working Americans forget the burdens they face every day.”
Dean, who is sharing the lead with Kerry in polls in New Hampshire, said the address made the case for the president’s defeat in November.
“President Bush offered a stale agenda that aids the special interests and does very little for working Americans,” Dean said. “The president’s speech underscored the need for replacing him with a proven, experienced leader, one who has balanced budgets and made tough decisions, and who stands up for the truth and what is right.”
'A state of denial'
Charging that Bush lived in “a state of denial,” Lieberman said Bush proposed more tax cuts for those who don’t need them and lacked a program to create good jobs.
“Right on schedule, George W. Bush is trying to camouflage his irresponsible, divisive, right-wing agenda and repackage himself as a centrist compassionate conservative around election time. But no amount of election year conversions, extraplanetary travel, or hollow gestures can cover up this president’s leadership failures and his extreme politics,” Lieberman said.
In what he dubbed his own “state of the nation” speech, candidate Dennis Kucinich said Bush’s tax cuts combined with the Iraq war have weakened the middle class. The administration “has spent $155 billion for an unnecessary war driven by fear,” Kucinich said.
(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)