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IN THE NEWS - February 1, 2003: Bush’s State of the Union Speech - 2003-01-31

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program, IN THE NEWS.

President Bush gave his State of the Union message to American lawmakers and the nation Tuesday. Some observers say it was the most important speech of Mister Bush’s presidency. His comments were designed to prepare the United States for a possible war and build support for his administration and its policies.

The president explained his reasons for possible military action against Iraq. He said Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has failed to obey United Nations demands to disarm.

Mister Bush also said there is evidence of ties between Iraq and terror groups. He said the Iraqi leader wants weapons of great destruction to control, threaten and attack his opponents. The President announced that Secretary of State Colin Powell will present proof next week to the U-N Security Council. He said Mister Powell would give information about Iraq’s illegal weapons programs, its efforts to hide those weapons from U-N inspectors and Iraq’s links to terrorists.

Mister Bush said the United States will continue working with the U-N before taking any military action in Iraq. But he warned that Saddam Hussein would be disarmed by force if he does not disarm peacefully.

The president said the Iraqi issue and North Korea’s nuclear activities require different plans of action. He said his administration is working with other countries to find a peaceful way to end the dispute with North Korea.

Mister Bush also spoke about a number of other subjects. He announced plans for a major campaign to fight the disease AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean area. He asked Congress to approve fifteen-thousand-million dollars for the program over the next five years.

The president discussed some issues that affect the everyday lives of Americans. Mister Bush proposed health care reforms and new national security measures. He also urged Congress to approve his plan to cut taxes. He said his first goal is to improve the American economy.

Public opinion studies have shown that most Americans do not approve of the way Mister Bush is dealing with the economy.

The top elected official in Washington State gave the opposition Democratic Party’s official reaction to the State of the Union message. Governor Gary Locke said the President’s economic plan would weaken America’s economic future and create permanent deficits in government spending. He also urged Mister Bush to continue dealing with world problems by working with other countries.

The Gallop organization asked four-hundred-forty Americans for their opinions before and after the President’s speech. Before the speech, forty-seven percent said Mister Bush had made a strong case for military action against Iraq. After the speech, that number rose to sixty-seven percent.

This VOA Special English report, IN THE NEWS, was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Steve Ember.