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What Bush Left Unsaid in State of the Union Address

Forget Weapons of Mass Destruction. Now its “weapons of mass destruction-related program activities.”

January 20, 2004

Modified: January 21, 2004

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Summary

 

President Bush accentuated the positive in his annual State of the Union Address to Congress Jan. 20 – leaving out some pertinent but negative facts. Omitted: the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the loss of 2.3 million jobs, and who's responsible for the big deficits he proposes to cut.

Analysis

 

Here are some of the things the President said, along with a look at what he didn't say:

Weapons of Mass Destruction

The President made no mention of the failure so far to locate nuclear, chemical or biological weapons in Iraq.

Bush: We are seeking all the facts. Already the Kay Report identified dozens of weapons of mass destruction-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq  concealed from the United Nations.

True, former UN weapons inspector David Kay, now heading the US effort to locate Saddam Hussein's unconventional weapons, did report last October that he had uncovered "dozens of WMD-related program activities and significant amounts of equipment that Iraq concealed from the United Nations during the inspections that began in late 2002." 

But Kay also told the House and Senate intelligence committees:

We have not yet found stocks of weapons . . . We have not yet been able to corroborate the existence of a mobile BW (biological weapons) production effort . . . . Multiple sources (say) that Iraq did not have a large, ongoing, centrally controlled CW (chemical warfare) program after 1991 . . . . (and) to date we have not uncovered evidence that Iraq undertook significant post-1998 steps to actually build nuclear weapons or produce fissile material . . . . (and) no detainee has admitted any actual knowledge of plans for unconventional warheads for any current or planned ballistic missile.

The Economy

The President said the economy is growing and producing jobs, but failed to mention that the growth is so far insufficient to make up for what's been lost since he took office.

Bush: We have come through recession, and terrorist attack, and corporate scandals, and the uncertainties of war.  And because you acted to stimulate our economy with tax relief, this economy is strong, and growing stronger . . . . And jobs are on the rise.

It is true that the economy grew at a yearly rate of 8.2% in the third quarter of last year, making it the best quarter in 20 years. And private economists are generally agreed that tax cuts helped propel the consumer spending that fueled the growth, which continues. Also true is that the economy has gained 278,000 jobs since July, when the job slump bottomed out.

But what the President left unsaid is that in the most recent month the job gain was almost nonexistent -- only 1,000 -- and that as of December total employment was still 2.3 million below where it stood when Bush took office in January 2001.

Education

Bush spoke of a big increase in federal funding for education, but didn't mention complaints that he's forcing states to pay for new federal requirements to test student performance.

Bush:By passing the No Child Left Behind Act, you have made the expectation of literacy the law of our country. We are providing more funding for our schools -- a 36 percent increase since 2001. We are requiring higher standards.

It is true that federal funding for education has increased sharply since Bush took office, as even his critics concede. But it is also true that Bush's new requirements for student testing impose large costs on state and local governments and that Bush hasn't pushed the Republican Congress for the full amounts authorized by the No Child Left Behind Act. The National Education Association estimated the shortfall at $5.4 billion last year, and even a Republican senator, Olympia Snowe of Maine, said last year, "It leaves us open to the charge of unfunded mandates."

Trade

In speaking of benefits of international trade, the President failed to mention his own steps to protect the politically important US steel industry.

Bush: My Administration is promoting free and fair trade, to open up new markets for America 's entrepreneurs, and manufacturers, and farmers, and to create jobs for America 's workers.

Not mentioned: Bush's imposition of tariffs on imported steel, which pleased US labor unions and steel executives but which were found to violate World Trade Organization rules. Bush lifted the steel tariffs Dec. 4 after trading partners threatened retaliation against US exports.

Federal Deficit

The President promised to curb deficit spending, but said nothing about where the deficits come from.

Bush: We can cut the deficit in half over the next five years.

Not mentioned: The projected federal surplusses at the end of Bill Clinton's term have now turned to a projected federal deficit of $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years, due to Bush's two large tax cuts, large increases in federal spending, and an economic downturn.

Also not mentioned: A 12.3% rise in discretionary federal spending last fiscal year followed by a 9% rise this fiscal year, as estimated by the  Congressional Budget Office.

Sources

 

"Statement by David Kay on the Interim Progress Report on the Activities of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) Before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Defense, and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence", 2 Oct. 2003, Central Intelligence Agency website.

 

Edward Alden, Guy De Jonquieres and Mariko Sanchanta "US to dismantle steel tariffs and avoid sanctions: Bush eases relations with Europe and Japan but angers Americansteelworkers,"  Financial Times (London,England) 5 Dec. 2003: A1.

 

"Current Budget Projections" Congressional Budget Office, Washington DC 26 August 2003.

David Baumann, "Rhetoric Versus Reality" The National Journal 2 August 2003.