George W. Bush will deliver his fifth State of the Union address tonight not as the outclassed yet endearing underdog he was for his first, but as the champion on the ropes, taking body blows from all directions. From the war in Iraq to the failed plan for reworking Social Security to the Medicare prescription drug debacle to the Abramoff and Plame scandals, Bush has spent much of his second term paying for the bravado and hubris he displayed in the first.
Remember the “Axis of Evil”? That uranium Saddam Hussein was supposedly trying to buy in Africa? The never-mind-the-UN approach to war? They’re all here, in Bush’s State of the Union addresses.
2005 State of the Union Address
On the war in Iraq
“In the three and a half years since September the 11th, 2001, we have taken unprecedented actions to protect Americans. We’ve created a new department of government to defend our homeland, focused the FBI on preventing terrorism, begun to reform our intelligence agencies, broken up terror cells across the country, expanded research on defenses against biological and chemical attack, improved border security, and trained more than a half-million first responders. Police and firefighters, air marshals, researchers, and so many others are working every day to make our homeland safer, and we thank them all.
Our nation, working with allies and friends, has also confronted the enemy abroad, with measures that are determined, successful, and continuing. The al Qaeda terror network that attacked our country still has leaders — but many of its top commanders have been removed. There are still governments that sponsor and harbor terrorists — but their number has declined. There are still regimes seeking weapons of mass destruction — but no longer without attention and without consequence. Our country is still the target of terrorists who want to kill many, and intimidate us all — and we will stay on the offensive against them, until the fight is won.”
2004 State of the Union Address
On the war in Iraq
“I know that some people question if America is really in a war at all. They view terrorism more as a crime, a problem to be solved mainly with law enforcement and indictments. After the World Trade Center was first attacked in 1993, some of the guilty were indicted and tried and convicted, and sent to prison. But the matter was not settled. The terrorists were still training and plotting in other nations, and drawing up more ambitious plans. After the chaos and carnage of September the 11th, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers. The terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States, and war is what they got.”
On the military
“And the men and women of the American military — they have taken the hardest duty. We’ve seen their skill and their courage in armored charges and midnight raids, and lonely hours on faithful watch. We have seen the joy when they return, and felt the sorrow when one is lost… Many of our troops are listening tonight. And I want you and your families to know: America is proud of you. And my administration, and this Congress, will give you the resources you need to fight and win the war on terror.”
2003 State of the Union Address
“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”
[. . .]
“The world has waited 12 years for Iraq to disarm. America will not accept a serious and mounting threat to our country, and our friends and our allies. The United States will ask the U.N. Security Council to convene on February the 5th to consider the facts of Iraq’s ongoing defiance of the world. Secretary of State Powell will present information and intelligence about Iraqi’s legal — Iraq’s illegal weapons programs, its attempt to hide those weapons from inspectors, and its links to terrorist groups.
“We will consult. But let there be no misunderstanding: If Saddam Hussein does not fully disarm, for the safety of our people and for the peace of the world, we will lead a coalition to disarm him.
“We seek peace. We strive for peace. And sometimes peace must be defended. A future lived at the mercy of terrible threats is no peace at all. If war is forced upon us, we will fight in a just cause and by just means — sparing, in every way we can, the innocent. And if war is forced upon us, we will fight with the full force and might of the United States military — and we will prevail.”
2002 State of the Union Address
On the war on Terror
“States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger. They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred. They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States. In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic.
“We will work closely with our coalition to deny terrorists and their state sponsors the materials, technology, and expertise to make and deliver weapons of mass destruction. We will develop and deploy effective missile defenses to protect America and our allies from sudden attack. And all nations should know: America will do what is necessary to ensure our nation’s security.”