Bush singles out Iran as the `primary state sponsor of terror'

GEORGE BUSH'S State of the Union address, the first of his second term, was a now familiar mix - the litany of sweeping goals at home and abroad, the inconvenient truths glossed over or omitted, the whole presented with that quite astonishing self-belief.

On the domestic front, Mr Bush set out in some detail for the first time his plans to part-privatise social security - the biggest overhaul of America's most-venerated welfare programme since it was signed into law by Franklin Roosevelt exactly 70 years ago.

Abroad, he was more specific on the grand theme of spreading freedom across the Middle East, first set out in his inaugural address last month. He chastised Iran as the "primary state sponsor of terror" and promised Iranian reformists the backing of the US: "As you stand for your own liberty, America stands with you."

Syria was given a similar stern warning to "end all support for terror and open the door for freedom". Mr Bush also urged Egypt and Saudi Arabia - US allies which have previously had a virtual free pass on their internal repression - to do more to foster democracy.

As usual, the President was well served by his speech writers and stage managers of ceremony. State of the Union addresses now regularly use special presidential guests to illustrate grand themes. But this year's was especially emotional, the tearful embrace in the VIP gallery between the parents of a US Marine killed in Iraq, and an Iraqi woman who took part in Sunday's election, 11 years after her own father was murdered by Saddam Hussein's intelligence services.

In the audience below, many Republican senators and congressmen pointed their fingers, carrying the purple ink stains used to mark Iraqis when they cast their vote at the weekend.

But now comes the hard part for Mr Bush - to bridge the gap between soaring rhetoric and awkward realities that do not conform with the grand vision, and the race to turn proposals into law within 18 months, before the 2006 mid-term election campaign. After that, even this most confident and determined of presidents will be treated as a lame duck.

Yesterday, Mr Bush took his social security proposals on the road, in a swing that takes him to North Dakota, Montana, Nebraska, Arkansas and Florida - by no coincidence all states he carried in last November's election, and where Republicans believe they can unseat incumbent Democratic senators.

But he has a tough sell on his hands. On Wednesday he said almost nothing about how the scheme will be financed, and the consequences for the federal budget deficit, already set to hit $427bn (pounds 227bn) in 2005, according to the White House.

The public is highly wary, while Democrats almost to a man are against the proposals, seen as a crude effort to extend Mr Bush's conservative, ideologically driven economic agenda. In his response to Mr Bush, Harry Reid, leader of the 44 Democrats in the Senate, called the scheme "social security roulette," that would add $2 trillion to the national debt.

Not a few Republicans also have reservations, as shown by the half dozen moderates among the party's 55 senators who were conspicuously slow to applaud when Mr Bush outlined his privatisation plan.

In the Senate, moreover, "nothing gets done that's not bipartisan," warned Charles Grassley, the Iowa Republican who heads the Senate Finance Committee which will deal with social security reform - a reference to the 60-vote majority needed to end a senate filibuster.

Similar pointed questioning, this time on Mr Bush's foreign policy awaits his new Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, who left yesterday for a week-long visit to Europe and the Middle East. The trip, a fortnight before Mr Bush travels to Europe, is billed as a fence-mending exercise after the acute trans-atlantic strains over Iraq.

Instead, Ms Rice will be closely questioned about the President's bellicose language towards Syria and Iran - just when the EU is engaged in delicate talks over Teheran's suspected nuclear programme.

For all the White House talk of repairing ties with traditional allies, Europe was mentioned but once in the 55-minute speech, and China, Russia and Africa not at all. The foreign policy focus of the second Bush administration, as for the first, will be the Middle East. The huge US trade deficits and the sagging dollar, which could upset every plan, were passed over.

But Mr Bush's lofty talk could not hide the practical problems, most notably how the US can make good on its warnings to Syria and Iran when its overstretched military struggles to contain Iraq.

Even Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defence and a prime architect of the 2003 invasion, told a congressional committee yesterday that despite the Iraqi election, violence was likely to continue for months.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
news

Lincoln MP Karl McCartney 'denied all knowledge' of the Twitter activity

Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
Life and Style
View of champagne glasses at a beach bar set up along the Croisette during the 66th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes on May 17, 2013
food + drink(and for now, there's a clear winner)
News
The author PD James, who died on 27 November 2014
people

Detective novelist who wrote Death comes to Pemberley passed away peacefully at her home, aged 94

Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
arts + ents
Life and Style
tech

Sites using the popular Gigya comment platform were attacked by the Syrian Electronic Army (SEA)

Extras
indybest
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Visitor Centre - Attraction Manager

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: For the first time in its 1,000...

Recruitment Genius: Air Conditioning Service and / or Installation Engineers

£27400 - £33500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time air conditioning, ven...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Web Developer

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of web an...

Recruitment Genius: Class 1 Driver

£12 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Our Client has been the leader in the events...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?