Politics & Policy

Words For The Sotu

Unsolicited advice.

Michael G. Franc

In a national poll conducted for Time and CNN shortly before the 2000 election, respondents were asked whether they considered themselves to be among the wealthiest one percent of all Americans. Purveyors of class warfare must have been despondent to learn — and the president would do well to remember — that 19 percent believed they earned enough to qualify for that exalted status. Another 20 percent told the pollsters that they fully expected to enter the ranks of the wealthiest one percent in the near future. Imagine: Two in five Americans hear the heated rhetoric about the “wealthiest one percent” and take it as a personal affront!

This optimism is not “irrational exuberance.” Glenn Hubbard, chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, points to studies that confirm the enormous upward economic mobility in American society. Over a ten-year period, Hubbard notes, 66 percent of low-wage earners earn enough to move up to a higher bracket.

The president speaks to the aspiring millionaires among us when he describes how ending the double taxation of dividends will boost the value of our 401(k)s and how lower marginal tax rates will benefit everyone. He should be unapologetic when he explains how workers could use private retirement accounts, carved out from a portion of their Social Security taxes, to secure their futures and pass along a nest egg to their children. He should burst with pride when he tells us how tax credits for uninsured workers to purchase health coverage would end their exposure to the devastating financial consequences of uninsured medical catastrophes and allow them to build future wealth. He should let his emotions betray his passion when he explains how meaningful forms of educational choice would allow parents who are frustrated with failing and dangerous public schools to save their children by moving them to successful schools.

If President Bush seizes the mantle of Reaganesque optimism, his ambitious domestic agenda will prevail.

— Michael G. Franc is vice president for government relations at the Heritage Foundation.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr.

The most-memorable passages of President Bush’s 2003 State of the Union address will deal with the global threat of terrorism and the other foreign-policy crises currently confronting the nation. He will, after all, be summoning the American people to war — a war they did not seek but now have no choice but to fight. The following are among the themes he should use to inform, inspire, and enlist them, and some suggested words:

— The next phase of the war on terror will involve the liberation of Iraq. It is an inextricable part of the worldwide campaign against the terrorists and their state sponsors. As many of you have read in press reports, there is some evidence of Saddam Hussein’s involvement in not only the September 11th attacks but also in the bombing of the first World Trade Center in 1993 and the destruction of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. My administration is actively pursuing this evidence and we will be presenting our findings to the Congress and the public in due course. We will probably not know the full story until we have access to Saddam’s bunkers and their secret files concerning terrorist operations. For the moment, it is enough to declare that Saddam Hussein has murderously attacked us in the past, but he has done so for the last time.

— The choice we face today is not between war and peace. Rather it is between war now — under circumstances and timing of our choosing — and war later, when conditions may be far more favorable to Saddam Hussein.

— Before this war on terror is over, we are likely to have to confront other adversaries, as well — certainly overseas and probably here at home. We will do so, wherever possible, with the help and support of our friends and allies. We will do so, however, alone if necessary. Our purpose will be not only to end a threat to ourselves but also to empower those who share our desire to live in peace and to enjoy the blessings of liberty that we Americans hold so dear.

— Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy.

Mark R. Levin

President Bush will say all the right things about the war on terrorism and tax cuts. In this regard, he’s very much like Ronald Reagan. But since Reagan, we’ve not heard a principled declaration for limited government from any of his successors. Of course, Bill Clinton made passing reference to it several years back, but everyone knew he didn’t mean it. After all, he tried to nationalize our healthcare system, which, some estimate, accounts for one-seventh of our economy.

Today, there are even some conservatives who argue that President Bush’s political success is due, in part, to his co-opting certain Democrat issues — such as a government-based prescription-drug program, increased federalization of public education, and unprecedented farm subsidies. They admire how the President neutralized the campaign-finance-reform issue by signing a law that he once strenuously opposed. After all, they say, the U.S. Supreme Court will find it unconstitutional in any event.

But this president’s political strength, like his legacy, is tied inextricably to his wartime record. And it’s his wartime leadership that has earned him the trust and admiration of the American people. Advancing aspects of the Democrat domestic agenda, much as Richard Nixon did, is, and will continue to be, largely gratuitous, if not altogether irrelevant, as a political matter. Since 9/11, the public’s priority has been national security. (And, God forbid, should there be another attack on our country, the president will pay a political price. The Democrats and their media friends will see to that.)

I am hopeful, therefore, that President Bush will not feel obliged to announce a laundry list of new or supposedly improved big-government initiatives. Instead, a reminder of our Founding principles — and, yes, that especially includes limited government — would be both inspirational and long overdue.

— Mark R. Levin is an NRO contributing editor.

Clifford D. May

My fellow citizens, as we gather tonight, the world is at war.

We did not choose this fight. But someone must step forward to lead the free world’s defense against tyranny. History has thrust that responsibility upon us — upon Americans. We accept with reluctance, but with determination.

Included within the free world are people from all the great faiths — Christian, Jew, Muslim, and Hindu among them. We are united by the conviction that freedom is preferable to bondage, that democracy is preferable to dictatorship, that tolerance is better than hatred. We are united by our principled opposition to the twisted ideologies that drive and inspire terrorism.

Terrorism is a barbaric practice, a practice that the civilized peoples of the 21st century reject — just as civilized peoples of the 20th century rejected genocide, just as the civilized peoples of the 19th century rejected slavery, just as the civilized peoples of the 18th century rejected piracy.

The dictators who support terrorism, the ideologues who justify terrorism and the murderers who commit terrorism — they are our enemies. They have chosen the path of evil. And they have chosen a dead end.

Yet we still hear some people, even now, saying: “But one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” That is a lie. Whatever the grievance or complaint, no one has the right to respond by intentionally murdering other people’s children.

Through forceful actions as well as strong words, we must make it clear that terrorism furthers no cause. Rather, terrorists delegitimize the very causes they claim to champion.

We still hear some people, even now, arguing for the appeasement of terrorists and of the regimes that enable them. Those people are wrong. They have failed to learn the lessons of history.

We Americans are slow to anger, and reluctant to go to war. But we know how to defend ourselves and our allies, and we do so when we must. Now is such a time.

Dig through the rocky soil of history. There you will find the ruins of the Nazis, the Fascists, the Communists, and others who hated Americans and other free peoples. There, soon, you will find the terrorist groups and the terrorist states that are in league with them.

I say to you today as I have said in the past: The United States will not permit the world’s most-dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.

The American nation will not tire. We will not weaken. We will not despair. In defense of freedom everywhere, America and its allies will prevail — so help us God.

— Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a think tank on terrorism.

Peter Robinson

During the Second World War, Churchill appeared in the House of Commons several times a week, providing a stream of detailed information about strategy and tactics, while FDR used his fireside chats to keep Americans informed. So far in the war on terrorism, President Bush has delivered several set piece speeches, each marvelous in its way, but little else. In the State of the Union Address, he needs to tell us where we stand.

Shortly after September 11, we were told that al Qaeda operated in 60 countries. Since then we’ve cleaned up just one country, Afghanistan. What are the plans for the other 59? A gigantic new bureaucracy, the Department of Homeland Security, now exists. What, specifically, does the president want it to accomplish in the coming year? Secretary Rumsfeld recently stated that the United States is capable of engaging in two wars at once, but at least one serious defense analyst, Eliot Cohen (author of Supreme Command), doubts it. Does the president truly believe that devoting only four percent of GDP to defense, half the proportion we devoted to defense during the Cold War, is enough? How does the president intend to deal with North Korea? Concerning Iraq, I don’t know anybody who can keep straight all the deadlines we’ve already given to Saddam Hussein — and now Hans Blix is saying that he and his fellow inspectors need “months” to complete their work.

I support the president, of course. But in recent months he’s permitted the C-SPAN appearances of Donald Rumsfeld to become the only frequent and reliable source of information about the war. The president is the president. He needs to speak to the nation, and in detail.

— Peter Robinson, a former Reagan speechwriter, is a fellow at the Hoover Institution and the host of Uncommon Knowledge on PBS.

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