Partisan positions color the reactions in Iowa’s congressional delegation to President Bush’s “State of the Union” speech. Senator Charles Grassley, a fellow Republican, gives a general thumbs up to the speech, especially Bush’s call for an end to “pork barrel” spending. “That seemed to have more bipartisan support than I thought, almost unanimous support, which is good,” Grassley says.
Grassley also liked Bush’s review of the international scene as well as Bush’s mention of thwarted terror attacks. “I think that’s important because I don’t think people stop to realize that more people could have died over the Atlantic a year ago August than died in New York,” Grassley says. “Quite frankly, I didn’t know about some terrorist — or if I heard about it I’d forgotten — a terrorist blowing up buildings in Los Angeles.”
But Congressman Dave Loebsack, a Democrat from Mount Vernon, gives Bush low marks for Monday night’s performance. “I guess I wasn’t surprised,” Loebsack says. “I was hoping for more. I was disappointed.”
Loebsack intends to support the economic stimulus package which Bush and Democratic leaders in the U.S. House have agreed to, but Loebsack wanted Bush to lay out other proposals on the domestic front. “I didn’t really hear any new ideas,” Loebsack says.
Congressman Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, suggests Bush’s speech lacked inspiration. “One of the things you’re always hoping you’ll hear in a State of the Union address is visionary new ideals that are going to take the country forward in a new, positive direction,” Braley says. “There didn’t seem to be very much of that…and that’s what’s very frustrating.”
According to Braley, Bush has offered little to break the partisanship that has “crippled” Washington. “Some of the words the president used were encouraging and promising, but I think we have to wait and see if there’s anything behind them to bring about the kind of change he was talking about,” Braley says.
Congressman Leonard Boswell, a Democrat from Des Moines, says he wishes Bush would support adding more into the economic stimulus package, like an extension of unemployment benefits. “I hoped he might say more about what we could do for the economy,” Boswell says of Bush’s speech. Boswell, though, intends to vote for the bipartisan deal worked out between the White House and Democratic leaders in the U.S. House.
Iowa’s other two congressmen are Republicans and both back Bush. Congressman Tom Latham of Ames gives Bush high marks for his handling of the economy. “The president did a good job of recognizing and the need for a short-term stimulus,” Latham says.
Latham cautions Democrats against balking at too many of Bush’s ideas. “Congress I hope last year learned that you accomplish nothing by partisan bickering,” Latham says.
Congressman Steve King of Kiron says Bush gave a great speech. “The president came into the House chambers just utterly relaxed and in control of the situation. He covered about everything that I could think of,” King says. “You know he made a delivery that challenged us in the future but not with any bold challenges to us. It wasn’t a time for bold challenges.”
King had expected Bush to use his last “State of the Union” speech to recap his seven years in the White House. “I like President Bush. Personally, he is a wonderful man and he’s a commanding leader. He understands his position in the Oval Office,” King says. “As much as I’ve dealt with him, I’ve never had an unkind word between the two of us.”
Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, issued a prepared statement, praising Bush for his words about cooperation, but Harkin added that it’s still unclear whether Bush will work with or against the Democratically-controlled congress on the pressing issues of the day. The other six members of Iowa’s congressional delegation spoke with Radio Iowa by phone after Bush’s speech.