Bush Champions White House Proposals

President Bush was on the road Wednesday, appearing in Wilmington, Del., to lobby for public support for his State of the Union proposals.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

For President Bush, delivering the State of the Union address is followed by another tradition the day after: selling it. This morning the President was in Wilmington, Delaware, trying to get public support for his energy proposals.

I'm joined now by NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea. And Don, what was the president's sales pitch this morning?

DON GONYEA: Well you know what he's trying to do? He's trying to gain some successes as part of a domestic agenda even though so much of the focus is on all of the turmoil in Iraq. And in the speech last night he talked about energy and the need for the U.S. to reduce its dependence on foreign supplies of oil.

So today he was in Delaware. He was at a DuPont facility in Wilmington. And he was talking about that, that very topic. Not in a big prepared speech. Just making comments on it. But it's part of kind of focusing the attention on individual elements of the speech.

Tomorrow he'll be out on the road again. This time the topic will be healthcare. And he will be in Missouri, not too far from Kansas City.

And then next week, we're told, there are going to be two more State of speeches. These will be State of the Economy speeches. One's going to be in the Midwest. One is going to be somewhere in the Northeast, we think.

And again, he's out there. And he's trying to maintain some sort of dialogue with the American public about something other than Iraq, frankly.

BRAND: Hm-hmm. And what does it seem to be - among the American public what does the response seem to be because polls show that they're not really liking his message all too much?

GONYEA: No. Exactly. And the low approval scores that he has rooted, you know, to a large degree in Iraq, are really having an impact on his ability to move the needle on some of these other things as well.

BRAND: Well is there anything that they wanted to hear from the president last night that he didn't say? Any glaring omissions?

GONYEA: Well it's interesting he did not mention New Orleans or Hurricane Katrina, even though the recovery effort there is still underway - some people say struggling. So a lot of people saw that as an omission.

But it's interesting how things sometimes just are on the radar screen one day, in terms of a speech like this, and then fall off the next. Remember the 2005 speech, so much of it was about social security. The president went out there and for a good chunk of the year in 2005 just promoted the heck out of his social security proposals, you know, privatizing part of the system and all that. That went nowhere.

Now last night something like social security - still a big issue - got barely a mention.

BRAND: Hm. Well you have been covering the president for his entire presidency. But last night was the first time you were actually inside the House chamber for the - for the speech. What were your impressions?

GONYEA: You got a sense watching him last night that maybe this was the first time he's really, really come to terms with how different the world is. There was a moment I'll tell you about.

The former speaker, Dennis Hastert, was seated all of a sudden way in the back on the left hand side. He's just a member of the Republican minority now. You wonder if at some point his eyes didn't meet the president's and they kind of, you know, had this unspoken, gee, how did we get here? How did the world change so much?

BRAND: NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea. Thank you, Don.

GONYEA: Pleasure.

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