Bush focuses on taxes, Iraq


President Bush delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Monday night.

The Associated Press
Published: Tuesday, January 29, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 28, 2008 at 11:45 p.m.

WASHINGTON - Facing an unstable economy and an unfinished war, President Bush used his final State of the Union address Monday night to call for quick passage of his tax rebate package, patience in Iraq and a modest concluding agenda that includes $300 million in scholarship money for low-income children in struggling schools.

With Senate Democrats already jockeying to amend the stimulus package that the administration negotiated with the House last week, Bush, in his address, urged lawmakers not to let the delicate deal fall apart.

Like presidents before him, Bush made the case that the state of the union was strong, but he was also forced to concede that Americans felt unsettled about the future.

"As we meet tonight, our economy is undergoing a period of uncertainty," Bush said, adding that "at kitchen tables across the country, there is concern about our economic future."

On Iraq, Bush made the case that his troop buildup had "achieved results few of us could have imagined just one year ago." Yet the president warned that the road ahead would be difficult. "Our enemies in Iraq have been hit hard," he said. "They are not yet defeated, and we can still expect tough fighting ahead."

The White House had promised the speech would look forward, not back. Yet it was infused with a sense of summing up, as Bush opened by remarking that "our country has been tested in ways none of us could imagine" since he delivered his first address to Congress.

"We have faced hard decisions about peace and war, rising competition in the world economy, and the health and welfare of our citizens," Bush said. "These issues call for vigorous debate, and I think it's fair to say we've answered that call. Yet history will record that amid our differences, we acted with purpose."

Democrats responded to the speech with a call for unity - a departure from past State of the Union evenings, when they have sharply criticized Bush.

Seven years have passed since Bush arrived in Washington, fresh from the Texas governor's mansion, with a sweeping domestic agenda and a grand promise to be a "uniter, not a divider." But with the nation bitterly divided over the war, and many Americans already looking past Bush to the 2008 presidential race, he arrived in the House chamber on Monday night a politician with much less ambitious plans.

Bush is grayer now than he was then. And he is realistic, White House aides say, about what he might accomplish in his 51 weeks left.

In one poignant sign that his time is short, Bush's twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara, were seated in the first lady's box. It was the first time they had attended one of their father's State of the Union addresses.

Looking ahead, on domestic affairs, Bush called on Congress to reauthorize his signature education bill, No Child Left Behind, and to pass pending trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea. He asked lawmakers to make his tax cuts permanent, and implored them to renew legislation permitting intelligence officials to eavesdrop on the communications of terrorism suspects and to provide legal immunity to phone companies that have helped in the wiretapping efforts.

Yet even as Bush issued that call, lawmakers were at an impasse over the bill on Monday night.

Click here to view some of the images taken from President Bush's final State of the Union address.

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