Debate over Tuesday#039;s State of the Union Address continues

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Pike County residents continued to reflect on Tuesday's hour-long State of the Union speech on Wednesday. The annual speech, given by President George W. Bush to both houses of Congress was broadcast to the American people and caused several observers to evaluate both Bush's speaking style and the content of the speech.

The speech, which was divided into two parts, was unusual said the Dean of Troy State university's speech department, Dr. Jim Vickery.

"He placed the longest section at the end. No speech professor would ever approve of the way that speech was constructed," said Vickery, who assigned his interviewing classes to watch the speech. "In order to appear as something other than a war-monger, he gave the usual State of the Union and then a 27 minute speech on Iraq."

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Vickery also said the speech was unusual in that none of the special guests invited to the speech were introduced on camera.

"The White House sent out a list of guests of the first lady, but none of those people were introduced," he said. "The speech is full of lead up moments to those people, including the man from Louisiana and the woman from Montgomery who'd worked in Afghanistan. They weren't introduced, which makes this the first State of the Union since Reagan that nobody was introduced and the living visual aids weren't used. It was really odd."

The Dean of Troy State's political science program also remarked on a tactic used by Bush.

"I went back Tuesday afternoon and reread the 2002 State of the Union address and much of that focused on al-Qaida. I was struck that he mentioned them this year only a few times but did not mention Osama bin Laden by name at all," said Dr. James Rinehart. "We've shifted from one public enemny to another."

Another rhetorical tactic Bush employed Tuesday night was the use of extremely vivid images when talking about human rights violations by Iraq. Citing a human rights organization he did not name, Bush said Iraqi officials were guilty of tearing out tongues of prisoners and using electrical shocks as torture.

"That was more graphic than any speech given by any president in American history," Rinehart said. "It was all for effect. Many people felt he needed to reestablish his claim on strong leadership and apparently he decided to use that type of language, figuring that was his best shot. It's disappointing that he's going to resort to that."

The Rev. Don Hatcher of Troy said President Bush's speech was excellent and that he made some points with the America people.

"I think President Bush laid the groundwork for war with Iraq," Hatcher said. "The early part of the speech had a different tone and I was surprised that he didn't talk more about the economic goals he highlighted in the early part of the speech. However, I think he made a headway in convincing the American people that the probability of war is a reality and a necessity.

Douglas Botts of Brundidge said any plans to spur the economy would have to be put on hold until the war issue is settled.

"As long as there is the threat of war and the stock market is going backward, the economy is going to continue to suffer," Botts said.

Although he is in full agreement that the United States cannot not let Iraq continue to build up weapons of mass destruction, Botts is not sure "whether we go in now or whether we wait."

"It all hinges on what Colin Powell has to say when he addresses the U.N.," he said.

Maher said leaving the case against Iraq up to Powell was a mistake.

"This was one of the most important State of the Unions of the past 50 years and he didn't make a strong case or lay out a strong agenda," Maher said. "He said 'The UN can't tell us what to do,' and then he said he was going to save the evidence until he could talk to the UN. At best, it was a timely rehash of old evidence and then he put off the real proof onto some UN meeting that most Americans won't follow."

Retired TSU professor Milton McPhearson said he was disappointed that the president made sweeping promises he is not in a position to keep, such as working on air improvement.

"Near the end he made some Churchillian phrases, but he didn't reveal any real evidence that we know exactly what's going on in Iraq," he said. "If Gen. Powell doesn't come up with a least a number of smoking guns, such as specific photographs of places where weapons are being hidden -- if we don't prove that conclusively, with hard evidence -- any support abroad will evaporate and the American people will not support war with Iraq.


According to Lawrence Bowden, head of the Pike County Republican Committee, Bush's economic plan will bring positive results.

"He has an ambitious program with regards to health and the economy and that's difficult to do," he said. "Reforms are expensive and will take a real commitment by all Americans and Congress to make that happen. Tax cuts are unpopular in some areas, but he made his point that they'll get the money back into circulation."

Bowden said the federal government can't be expected to solve all of the nation's economic problems.

"We expect so much from our government, but government can't make the stock market grow," he said. "But they can allow it to happen like when they were prosecuting those who are corrupt in the business world. The economy is growing, but very slowly."

No matter what mistakes Bush may make on either the domestic or international front, many observers expect to see his popularity and approval rating swell once the war on Iraq is declared. Presidential analysts call this the "rally around the flag effect," although, as the case of Bush's father shows, the effects of war-inflated popularity can be temporary.

"There's no question in my mind that events are about to happen very quickly," Rinehart said. "The White House recognizes that the economy is paralyzed in light of the possibility of war with Iraq and if we go to war, his popularity will bump up as people rally around the president."