Techie Talk After the State of the Union Address

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Three men in Seattle's high-tech industry talk about the State of the Union address Tuesday night. One notes that while the president spoke of "strengthening" U.S. economic leadership in the world, a better word might be "restoring."

MARTIN KASTE reporting:

I'm Martin Kaste, in Seattle.

In a practice run for this Sunday's Super Bowl, we got three tech industry guys around a TV set and ordered pizza.

Long time computer entrepreneur, Tony Naughten(ph), says he doesn't usually enjoy watching President Bush speak. But he says this speech was a little different. He singles out the proposal to increase spending on basic science research, something he says is overdue.

Mr. TONY NAUGHTEN: The president talked about strengthening economic leadership in the world, and, you know, for many of us in the high tech world, the word really might better be restoring economic global leadership, because we've been slipping severely.

KASTE: This group of techies took special interest in President Bush's defense of his high tech wiretapping program.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: If there are people inside our country who are talking with Al Qaeda, we want to know about it. Because we will not sit back and wait to be hit again.

Mr. DAVID LYON(ph): It's certainly nothing new.

KASTE: David Lyon is the only one here who is not concerned about government eavesdropping without judicial warrant. Lyon, who runs a small IT company in suburban Seattle, says most Americans don't care.

Mr. LYON: A frequent comment that I've heard is, If they want to listen in on my conversation with my mother-in-law, so be it. I've got nothing to hide.

KASTE: Everyone around the pizza box agreed with the president that America should reduce its addiction to foreign oil. David Lyon says the need for oil was a reason for the invasion of Iraq; and a legitimate reason, in his view. He thinks the president's statement brings more clarity to the issue.

Mr. LYONS: It's interesting to see the evolution of Bush's international policy improving our self-sufficiency with coal, solar, and nuclear, definitely, I think, is setting the right direction for where we're going.

KASTE: But others are unhappy that Mr. Bush did not call on Congress to force carmakers to improve gas mileage. Marcus Courtney is the head of an upstart tech-workers union called WashTech. He takes issue with the president's rosy description of the economy, which he says ignores sluggish growth in good jobs and salaries. And despite other viewers' comments that this State of Union sounded more measured than usual, Courtney says he still can't stand Mr. Bush's rhetorical style.

Mr. MARCUS COURTNEY (President of WashTech): If you criticize his economic policies, you're a protectionist. If you criticize his foreign policy around his dealings with the war on terror or Iraq, then you're an isolationist. And I think it really shows you how defensive the president really is right now.

KASTE: The president's supporters and opponents alike seemed relieved when the speech ended, given Mr. Bush's continued ability to polarize an audience, it seems a nice championship football game might make for more relaxing viewing.

Martin Kaste, NPR News, Seattle.

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