Bush to aim speech at 'kitchen table' issues
President to discuss U.S. 'addiction' to oil, according to excerpt
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush will target the economy, health care, security and oil in his State of the Union speech Tuesday, as he attempts to move past a difficult year and prepare for critical midterm congressional elections.
As the price of crude oil approaches $70 a barrel, Bush will propose ending the nation's dependence on foreign energy, according to excerpts released shortly before the 9 p.m. ET address.
"America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world. ... The best way to break this addiction is through technology," Bush will say.
Bush also will propose earmarking funds for science and math education.
The president will address concerns about the rising cost of prescription drugs and the new Medicare prescription drug plan, which Democrats have criticized as being too complicated.
"Our government has a responsibility to help provide health care for the poor and the elderly, and we are meeting that responsibility," Bush will say. "For all Americans, we must confront the rising cost of care ... strengthen the doctor-patient relationship ... and help people afford the insurance coverage they need."
Coming off a year that brought a devastating and politically embarrassing hurricane season, a lobbying scandal on Capitol Hill and rising discontent over U.S. involvement in wars abroad, Bush's approval rating stands at 43 percent, according to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll. At the same point in their administrations, President Clinton scored 59 percent, and President Reagan 64 percent.
Presidential counselor Dan Bartlett said Bush will "talk at length about leadership in our country, what it means, why it's important to our security, and why it is critically important to maintain our economic leadership in the world, which means more jobs and a higher standard of living for the American people."
But administration officials familiar with the speech say he also will discuss the nearly three-year-old U.S.-led war in Iraq, the diplomatic standoff over Iran's nuclear program and the ascent to power of the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas in Palestinian elections last week.
Administration officials familiar with the text say Bush will repeat his pledge that U.S. troops remain in Iraq until Iraqis can secure their country.
Bush is expected to threaten Iran with international isolation unless it cooperates with the international community in the diplomatic impasse over its nuclear program. U.S. and European officials suspect Tehran is using a civilian nuclear power program to develop nuclear weapons, and Bush is expected to praise the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council for taking Iran to task over those concerns, the officials said.
And Bush will reiterate that Hamas must renounce violence and recognize Israel to keep U.S. support for the Palestinian Authority it will lead. And the president will again emphasize the importance of democracy and continued efforts to revive the Middle East peace process.
Bush also will continue his calls for Congress to renew the USA Patriot Act and make permanent the tax cuts passed in 2001, his spokesman said Monday.
Bush will take the lectern in the House chamber during a significant political shift in the Supreme Court. Earlier on Tuesday, the GOP-dominated Senate voted to approve his nominee Samuel Alito, who was sworn in just months after the president's first pick to the high court, John Roberts, assumed the role of chief justice.
Alito is expected to join his new colleagues at Bush's address, court sources told CNN. Others attending the speech will include Pfc. Joshua Sparling, a wounded veteran who's being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.
Delivering a Democratic response Tuesday will be the moderate governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine, who defeated a Bush-backed candidate in November. Kaine said he would talk about health care, education, "the way we manage the war on terror and how we deal with our troops."
"I'm drawing a contrast between what I think are some failed approaches, poor management and choices here at the national level, with positive things that we're doing in the states and in other places of America," Kaine said.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will deliver a Democratic rebuttal in Spanish.
Tough year behind
Bush begins his sixth year in the White House after a tough 2005.
Democrats have been using a scandal surrounding high-powered lobbyist Jack Abramoff, an associate of several top GOP figures, to hammer at what they call a "culture of corruption" on Republican-dominated Capitol Hill.
In addition, public support for the war in Iraq has declined as casualties have mounted, despite a series of successful Iraqi elections.
In the war on terrorism, al Qaeda's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, survived a U.S. rocket attack earlier this month and taunted the president in a videotape broadcast Monday on the Arabic-language satellite television channel Al-Jazeera.
Also, the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina was widely criticized, leading to the departure of the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
A criminal investigation into the 2003 leak of a CIA agent's identity reached the White House, resulting in the indictment of a top aide to Vice President **** Cheney.
And the signature issue of last year's State of the Union -- a wide-ranging overhaul of Social Security -- failed to win popular support.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said he hopes Bush will live up to his pledge to be "a uniter, not a divider." But he said Bush's rhetoric over the past five years has been "almost Orwellian."
"Everything that he's done is just the opposite of what he has said," the Nevada Democrat said.
CNN's Dana Bash and Suzanne Malveaux contributed to this report.