Reactions to President George W. Bush’s final State of the Union address have been mixed. However, many African Americans on Capitol Hill were not sympathetic in their criticism of the speech in which Bush spent most of his time defending his programs and initiatives over the last seven years, including the war against terrorism, reducing taxes, and passing the No Child Left Behind legislation.
At a time when the voters are going to the polls to select a candidate for president and members of Congress are trying to pass an economic stimulus plan, Democratic lawmakers and members of the Congressional Black Caucus are questioning why Bush didn’t paint a better picture of the country.
Congressman Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) concluded, “It is the same old soup warmed over and rehashed,” and Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.) said, while he applauded Bush for saying that he would bring home 20,000 troops from Iraq, “He didn’t give us any hope of when he will end this war.”
Congressman Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), added, “I thought that the president was amazingly short on details about economic stimulus. I thought I heard another surge into Afghanistan with an additional 3,200 troops. His last State of the Union was welcomed but disappointing.”
But Martin Luther King III, who was one of the private citizens invited to the speech, was more optimistic. “It was a very decent speech for his last State of the Union,” King said. “I think that it is tough for a president to end his tenure and especially in seven years that have been very devastating to poor people in this nation and for families who have had loved ones who lost their lives in war.” However, King stood alone in his opinion.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters after the speech that Bush missed an opportunity. “The president’s speech lacked a certain energy, a certain vision, a certain future-looking presentation. He talked a lot about what had been done and what he proposed that hadn’t been done, but there were really no long-term visions for what we can do.
Hoyer said he is most proud that the Democrats on Capitol Hill reached a compromise with the White House on the economic stimulus package and that once it passes the Senate and is signed into law that it should give actual checks out to families. “It is good for the American people to understand that their representatives can work together in a bipartisan way when confronted with an immediate challenge.”
Congressional Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton said, “The president does have an opportunity to salvage himself something of a legacy. He came forward with a lot of veto threats but look, we are about to pass an economic stimulus package.”
“You can make up in one year what you haven’t done in seven years,” Norton adds. “We will meet him half way if he comes to the half line and meets us.”