WASHINGTON – President Bush urged patience and perseverance with the nation’s top two problems — a lagging economy and prolonged war in Iraq — in his last State of the Union address Monday evening.
“From expanding opportunity to protecting our country, we have made good progress. Yet we have unfinished business before us and the American people expect us to get it done,” Bush said.
Both Republicans in Maryland’s congressional delegation said Bush had saved the best speech for last.
“I thought it was his best State of the Union address ever,” said Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville. “It was filled with very specific policies and programs.”
No fan of the Bush education reform program No Child Left Behind, which he voted against, Gilchrest said he was encouraged by the call to debate education and said the focus should turn toward public schools so they are not left behind.
Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, said the speech was “great,” with the exception of the portion about schools. He, too, didn’t vote for No Child Left Behind, and wasn’t too pleased with any federal meddling in schools.
“There’s zero evidence that Congress and the federal government can do anything for education,” he said.
But the bipartisan cooperation Bush called for in the speech may not be forthcoming.
Maryland’s junior Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin said, “I was hoping the president would seize on the goodwill of the stimulus package and hopefully would use the same format to move forward on the housing crisis in our country.”
The House and the president agreed on a $150 billion economic salvage package last week.
“The whole attitude of the speech,” Cardin said, “gave little hope that there would be a new working relationship between this president and the Congress.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, said the country’s sad state is evident in the foreclosure and for sale signs he passes every day, he said in a statement issued by his office. And, he added, the money spent on “a war that should have never been waged” would have been better devoted to children’s health care funding, a bill vetoed by Bush.
“The Bush legacy is not one of which any president should be proud,” Cummings said. “It is not one of leadership or of unity. It is not a legacy of sound policies, nor is it a legacy of hope.” The state of the union, he said, “is dire.”
The president will appear in Baltimore this morning to review the Jericho program, a religiously based program designed to help inmates return to their communities.
Capital News Service reporters Will Skowronski and Veena Trehan contributed to this report.