State of the Union — and Bush's Presidency

NPR Senior News Analyst Daniel Schorr offers his review of President Bush's State of the Union address Tuesday night — and remarks on the president's current lack of political capital.

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DANIEL SCHORR: The atmosphere after the State of the Union last night brought back to mind 1995, when President Clinton after sharp Democratic reverses in the Congressional election told a news conference that under the Constitution, he was still relevant.

NORRIS: NPR's senior analyst, Daniel Schorr.

SCHORR: It also recalls 2004, when a reelected President Bush told a news conference that he had earned political capital in the campaign that he now planned to spend on issues dear to him, like social security, tax reform and the war against terrorism.

That capital has now run out, and the speech last night, professionally crafted though it was, reflected the bruising rejection of the president in most of the opinion polls and more significantly in the November election.

There are now growing demands that the American military extricate itself from a conflict that increasingly looks like a Sunni/Shiite civil war. The usual practice is for a president in trouble on the domestic front to shift his emphasis to the international scene.

In this case, the speech was almost evenly divided between domestic initiatives like health care, social security, energy and immigration and the foreign scene, meaning Iraq, the inescapable subject. But there was no sign that he had changed many minds.

He talked of trying to avert a nightmare scenario of facing the defeat that would be grievous and far reaching, and he appealed to Congress and the public to give him one last chance to win with his new strategy featuring a temporary military reinforcement.

But that is falling on deaf ears. Today, a Senate Foreign Relations Committee, acting by design immediately after the State of the Union, approved by a vote of 12-9 a resolution saying that an escalation of American troop strength is against the national interest. The resolution is what is called non-binding, that is not obliging the administration to do anything. But it makes President Bush look like a lame duck, indeed.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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