What the President Didn't Say

State of Union Speech Short on Domestic Policy Details, Long on Policy Problems

In his State of the Union speech, President Bush pledged that his administration would not pass our country’s current problems on to the next generation of Americans. But that is precisely what his administration is preparing to do with a set of policies that will drastically undermine Americans’ rights and freedoms and radically restrict the federal government’s ability to deal with a range of urgent issues from strengthening schools to protecting the environment to saving Social Security and Medicare.

There are a lot of things President Bush didn’t tell Americans in his State of the Union speech.

He didn’t say that the trillions of dollars in new and permanent tax cuts he is seeking are directed overwhelmingly to prosperous Americans who are in the least need of help, or that they would make it nearly impossible for the government to deal effectively with national priorities like education and health care for years to come. He didn’t talk about the disastrous consequences his tax cuts would have on the states, which are already struggling to maintain vital services in the face of severe budget deficits.

He didn’t say that his faith-based initiative, which he praised with warm words but few details, undermines the wall between church and state, sets a dangerous precedent of allowing federally funded religious discrimination in hiring, and requires little accountability.

Remarkably, President Bush didn’t say anything at all about his judicial nominees, who could have a longer-term impact on Americans than anything else he does as president. He didn’t tell Americans that if the Senate allows him to fill the federal judiciary with judges who embrace a radical states’ rights approach to the Constitution, the next generation of Americans will suffer the loss of fundamental rights, liberties, and protections that they have enjoyed for decades.

And the president had nothing to say about Americans’ constitutional liberties, which have been steadily undermined by his administration’s policies, such as secret and indefinite detentions and denial of the right to counsel.

The president’s State of the Union speech did not address the state of the courts or the state of the Constitution. But the nation urgently needs a real debate about the future of our constitutional liberties and the future of reproductive rights, civil rights, environmental protection, religious liberty, worker safety and health, and more. President Bush wants to avoid that conversation, but the American people must demand it. There is too much at stake to remain silent.

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