Bush has plan to end oil 'addiction'
Education, Social Security initiatives in State of Union speech
President Bush's speech topics included Iraq, entitlements for baby boomers, Iran and energy.
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- On the heels of a politically tough year, President Bush used his State of the Union speech Tuesday to propose weaning the United States from its "addiction" to imported oil and studying how the baby boom generation may strain federal entitlements.
The president also spent a good deal of his address on the U.S.-led war in Iraq, efforts to fight terrorism and Iran's nuclear program.
An instant CNN/USA Today/Gallup opinion poll of people who watched the speech found that more than half reacted positively. (Watch a slide show of the highlights of the speech)
Bush also offered a proposal aimed at ending U.S. dependence on foreign oil as more Americans express concern about the rising cost of gasoline and home heating fuel. (Watch the president describe America's 'serious' addiction to oil -- 2:20)
"Here we have a serious problem: America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world," the former oil executive said.
"Tonight, I announce the Advanced Energy Initiative -- a 22 percent increase in clean energy research at the Department of Energy, to push for breakthroughs in two vital areas," Bush said. "To change how we power our homes and offices, we will invest more in zero-emission, coal-fired plants; revolutionary solar and wind technologies; and clean, safe nuclear energy.
"We will increase our research in better batteries for hybrid and electric cars, and in pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen. We will also fund additional research in cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol, not just from corn but from wood chips, stalks,or switch grass." (Domestic points)
To produce the technicians that might bolster such energy research, Bush also called for a federal education initiative "to double the federal commitment to the most critical basic research programs in the physical sciences over the next 10 years."
"This funding will support the work of America's most creative minds as they explore promising areas such as nanotechnology, supercomputing, and alternative energy sources."
That commitment would also make "permanent the research and development tax credit, to encourage bolder private-sector investment in technology," he said.
On the international front, Bush invited Americans to choose action over isolationism in his policy against tyranny and to strengthen U.S. economic ties with other nations.
"We will choose to act confidently in pursuing the enemies of freedom -- or retreat from our duties in the hope of an easier life," Bush said. "We will choose to build our prosperity by leading the world economy -- or shut ourselves off from trade and opportunity."
In interviews with 464 adult Americans who watched the speech, 48 percent said they had a very positive reaction. That's well short of the three-quarters of viewers who reacted favorably to Bush's 2002 State of the Union address.
Twenty-seven percent of Tuesday's viewers said they had a somewhat favorable reaction to the speech, while 23 percent said they felt negatively about it. (See the poll results)
The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
Because the poll reflects the opinions of only those who watched the State of the Union, it reflects more favorable opinions than a random sampling of the country as a whole. The audience was 43 percent Republican, 23 percent Democratic and 34 percent Independent.
War in Iraq
The president was optimistic about the war in Iraq that has claimed more than 2,200 U.S. troops since March of 2003. (International points)
"The road to victory is the road that will take our troops home," Bush said. "As we make progress on the ground, and Iraqi forces increasingly take the lead, we should be able to further decrease our troop levels -- but those decisions will be made by our military commanders, not by politicians in Washington, D.C."
And the president also focused attention on Iraq's neighbor Iran, which U.S. and European officials suspect is using a civilian nuclear power program to develop nuclear weapons.
Iran is "defying the world with its nuclear ambitions -- and the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons," Bush said. (Transcript)
According to a CNN count, the president was interrupted by applause 64 times, one of those interruptions coming from the Democratic side of the aisle when he said:
"Congress did not act last year on my proposal to save Social Security. ..."
Bush's longest applause lasted 52 seconds, for his mention of war veteran Daniel Clay. The speech lasted about 50 minutes.
Baby boomer retirement
Bush announced initiatives on entitlement issues in the wake of his Social Security private accounts proposal, which failed to gain popular support.
"Tonight, I ask you to join me in creating a commission to examine the full impact of baby boom retirements on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid," Bush said. "This commission should include members of Congress of both parties, and offer bipartisan answers. We need to put aside partisan politics, work together and get this problem solved."
Bush is coming off a difficult year. Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast and the government's response hurt the administration politically. That, a lobbying scandal on Capitol Hill and rising discontent over U.S. involvement in wars abroad has lowered Bush's approval rating to 43 percent in a recent CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll.
New court judge
Bush took the rostrum 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 joined his new colleagues at Bush's address. (Full story)
He recognized the Supreme Court's "two superb new members, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sam Alito."
Delivering a Democratic response Tuesday was the moderate governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine, who defeated a Bush-backed candidate in November. (Full story)
"The federal government should serve the American people," Kaine said. "But that mission is frustrated by this administration's poor choices and bad management. (Watch Kaine call for a better way -- 10:43)
"Families in the Gulf Coast see that as they wait to rebuild their lives. Americans who lose their jobs see that as they look to rebuild their careers. And our soldiers in Iraq see that as they try to rebuild a nation. I want to offer some good news tonight -- there is a better way."
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa delivered a Democratic rebuttal in Spanish.
CNN's Dana Bash and Suzanne Malveaux contributed to this report.
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