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Flashtraffic: State of the Union 2003

All eyes are on the "SOTU"-President Bush's State of the Union address on Jan. 28. What to watch for?

Issue: "State of the Union 2003," Jan. 25, 2003

All eyes are on the "SOTU"-President Bush's State of the Union address on Jan. 28. What to watch for? An ultimatum to Saddam Hussein. One day after chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix is slated to deliver his preliminary report, watch for the president to make the most dramatic case yet for war. British Prime Minister Tony Blair will huddle with President Bush at Camp David on Jan. 31 to map out the end game. An olive branch to Kim Jong Il. North Korea's leader let 2 million of his people starve to death in the 1990s while he bought $20 million worth of Mercedes luxury cars in 1998 alone. Still, top U.S. officials have concluded the unstable and highly aggressive Communist leader has already built several nuclear warheads and must be handled gingerly. "I'm absolutely convinced this issue will be solved in a peaceful way," President Bush told reporters on Jan. 14. "What this nation will do is use this as an opportunity to bring the Chinese and the Russians and the South Koreans and the Japanese to the table to solve this problem peacefully." Expect similar SOTU language. A pro-growth package for small business and seniors. White House advisers are delighted that Democrats have launched preemptive political attacks against their $670 billion tax-cut package. It's allowed them to hone their answers. Clues to how the president will respond to his critics can be found by listening carefully to his top deputies. Is the Bush plan a "giveaway to the 'rich'"? In private meetings with conservative leaders last week, Commerce Secretary Don Evans road-tested one response: 65 percent of the top income earners are small business owners employing more than 4 million Americans. Is it true that regular people are left out of the Bush plan? Vice President Cheney is testing a response for that. "The fact is that 54 million Americans own stocks that pay dividends," the V.P. told a private group in Washington on Jan. 10. "Moreover, 45 percent of all dividend recipients make under $50,000 per year. Three-fourths of them make less than $100,000 per year. And it's important to remember that more than half of all dividend income goes to America's seniors, many of whom rely on these checks as a steady source of income in their retirement." A targeted prescription-drug benefit for seniors. Watch for the president to call for full-blown Medicare reform. Key Bush allies: Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Sen. John Breaux (D-La.). But the first step will be the creation of a new prescription-drug benefit. Democrats want a massive new government-run drug benefit for all seniors. Top White House and congressional GOP officials want to counter with a benefit targeted at low-income seniors. They're working closely with a group of free-market health-care experts to draft a plan that strengthens private sector competition. Included in the discussions: Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute, Joe Antos of the American Enterprise Institute, and top staff at the Heritage Foundation.

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Joel C. Rosenberg
Joel C. Rosenberg


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