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In Packed Statuary Hall, As Many Opinions As People

From amidst the crush of reporters, cameramen, photographers, cops, lawmakers, aides, clowns and circus elephants inhabiting Statuary Hall following President Bush's State of the Union speech tonight came two basic reactions -- pleasant surprise and abject disappointment.



President Bush made a leisurely exit after Monday night's State of the Union address. (Rich Lipski/ The Washington Post)

No one had their hopes up too high for a lame duck's last address, but at least some senators and representatives heard better things than they expected.

"I thought it was a lot more challenging than I thought it would be," said Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.), who repeated several times how challenged he was by the challenging speech. Coleman's point was that Bush didn't lay out a specific agenda, he set goals and called for -- or challenged -- Congress to meet them.

New Mexico Rep. Tom Udall (D), who is running for Senate, also saw good things in Bush's speech and in the president's recent bipartisanship on the stimulus package. "There's hope in the air now," Udall said, specifically praising Bush's proposal to "create a new international clean technology fund" to help developing nations use cleaner energy.

"I found it more wide-ranging than most, and in a sense, more thoughtful," said GOP Rep. Vern Ehlers (Mich.), who thought the address was designed to guide the way for the next president as much as the current one.

But such praise was more than balanced by criticism following the address.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) lamented, "It's the last time the American people can be told we're winning the war" in Iraq, and added that he didn't think much of Bush on the domestic front either. Lautenberg complained that Bush always talked about improving education and health care but then wouldn't provide enough money to accomplish those goals.

Rep. Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.) was similarly unimpressed, calling Bush's domestic agenda "perfunctory."

"I thought the speech would be much more about the economy," Pomeroy said. "There was an element tonight that just felt like going through the motions."

While much of the speech was indeed about foreign policy, members of all stripes seemed more interested in talking about the economy.

"The two overriding issues for me are recovery back home and recovery of the economy," said Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), who faces another overriding issue (a felony indictment on corruption charges), but wasn't afraid to work the media room.

"I think I've been available to the press," Jefferson said. "I have no problem talking to the press about things I can talk about."

Jefferson wasn't the only member in Statuary Hall who may have had other things on his mind.

Virginia Rep. Tom Davis (R) is expected to announce in the coming days whether he will run for reelection. Asked about his plans, Davis said, "I wish I could tell you what I'm doing. Everybody's twisting me every which way."

Video excerpts of Bush's speech are below. The full video of Bush's speech is here, and check out the Democratic response here.

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By Ben Pershing  |  January 28, 2008; 11:45 PM ET
Categories:  Agenda  
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Comments

Bush talks as if he is amiable and harmless -- but when we see the implications of his policies, our flesh crawls. The best thing about this State of the Union address is that it's Bush's last!

Posted by: frodot | January 29, 2008 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Bush does this thing with his mouth that reminds me of Steve Martin when he's being a smarmy dweeb. Bush's speech was nothing more than a marketing pitch for the arms industry. Then he talked about initiatives--$30 billion for AIDS, $150 billion economic stimulus--all the while trying to cut taxes. This smarmy dweeb got us into this hole with his Republican repudiation of regulations, his Republican lies, his Republican cronyism, cruelty and corruption. And his total knuckleheadedness.

Posted by: Ed | January 29, 2008 12:38 PM | Report abuse

President Bush gave a profound State of the Union Address. I believe he has given of himself to the American people and has been sincere. For those who are critical, I ask, "How do you know someone else could have done a better job in facing what he has faced in his presidency? Has any president before him ever faced what he has been faced with in his two terms of office? Did any one else have the nerve to defend America? I don't have any answers, but this I do know. I believe he has acted upon the intelligence that was given him; I believe he is very sincere. No one knows how they would have guided America--they only want to throw "stones". I say, "He who is without sin, cast the first stone." I am not referencing the fact that Pres. Bush has sinned--to the contrary--he has done his best. How can anyone condemn him when no one has walked in his shoes?
Thank you.

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