State of the Union address set the bar high -- very high
President Bush's State of the Union message had something for just about everyone and was inspirational as well.
But the larger challenge is going to come over the next several months as the president explains how the nation can, in effect, have it all.
Tuesday night, the president's address was long on applause lines, promises, pledges and predictions, but woefully short on specifics. It now becomes incumbent on the president to explain how the nation can: dramatically increase defense spending, aggressively pursue a war on terrorism, develop and deploy a missile shield, provide prescription coverage for senior citizens, double spending for domestic security, improve education from preschool on up, stabilize Social Security for present and baby boomer recipients while privatizing a portion of it for younger workers, develop vaccines to fight anthrax and other deadly diseases, increase funding to train and equip police and firefighters and cut taxes in a way that stimulates a sluggish economy.
That's a tall order.
And while it is true that the United States cannot tolerate nations that harbor terrorists, branding Iran, Iraq and North Korea as an "axis of evil" may have repercussions that far outweigh the rhetorical value of the phrase. Do we have the international support necessary to back up the president's implied threat against these regimes? Does singling out Iran and Iraq give political ammunition to Islamists who are eager to characterize the U.S.-led war on terrorism as a war on Islam?
A new world: When President Bush was inaugurated a year ago, neither he nor anyone else could have imagined that his first State of the Union address would have required him to devote nearly three-fourths of the speech to a war on terrorism. No president since Abraham Lincoln has faced such a trying first year in office. No president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt has seen foreign enemies launch a deadly sneak attack on Americans.
Given that, it is difficult to find fault with the can-do theme of the address. That's especially true since other presidents before him have given similar speeches with far less justification.
Nonetheless, the president and Congress must now work to arrive at realistic responses to the world's need for peace, the nation's need for security and the people's desire for prosperity.