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Bush Lauds Progress in Iraq, Economic Plan


President Bush delivered his last State of the Union address to Congress Monday night, a speech dominated by his description of a policy shift that he said had brought success and the promise of victory in Iraq.

The president said that a year ago, the situation in Iraq was approaching chaos. But he said the promotion of a new commander, Gen. David Petraeus, and a new "surge" strategy, combined with additional troops, had reduced violence and begun a process by which Iraqis might take over their own security.

"Some may deny the surge is working, but among the terrorists there is no doubt," Bush said. "Al-Qaida is on the run in Iraq, and this enemy will be defeated."

At the same time, the president warned that withdrawing U.S. troops from the situation too quickly could bring al-Qaida roaring back and allow sectarian fighting to resume. Bush said 20,000 troops were coming home and would not be replaced, but that further withdrawals would await the judgment of commanders in the field.

"While the enemy is still dangerous and more work remains, the American and Iraqi surges have achieved results few of us could have imagined just one year ago," he said.

Tax Cuts and the Stimulus Package

The president also urged Congress to pass the $150 billion economic stimulus package he had worked out with leaders of both parties in both chambers. He said it would relieve anxiety about a slowdown in job growth and a decline in the housing market. He did not use the word recession.

"To build a prosperous future," he said, "we must trust people with their own money and empower them to grow our economy. "

Congress could also send positive signals to consumers by extending tax cuts originally passed in his first term, the president said, rather than letting them expire, as scheduled, beginning in 2010.

Taking on Earmarks

As an added prescription, the president said Congress could wean itself off its habit of earmarking dollars in appropriations bills to pay for special projects in individual states and districts. He also chastised Congress for refusing to approve his proposals for overhauling Social Security and immigration laws, the main thrusts of his domestic policy in his second term.

"Illegal immigration is complicated, but it can be resolved," he vowed. "And it must be resolved in a way that upholds both our laws and our highest ideals."

The speech was about 50 minutes long and was interrupted often by applause, as is traditional in these events. Republicans, sitting to the president's left, often rose in standing and cheering ovations. Most Democrats remained seated through most of these, applauding politely. But the mood in the chamber seemed more cordial than in past years, perhaps because the Congress senses the administration winding down.

Here, NPR reporters analyze key aspects of the president's address, summarizing his proposals and their prospects.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.