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Bush's State of the Union tour hits the road

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President Bush speaks Wednesday at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry House in Tennessee.

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INITIATIVES

  • Cut 140 government programs
  • Launch commission to examine impact of baby boom retirements
  • Increase research into clean energy
  • Train 70,000 high school teachers to lead courses in math and science

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  • Domestic issues
  • International issues
  • Full transcript
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    WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush took his State of the Union message to Tennessee on Wednesday, reiterating his warning about U.S. dependence on imported oil and isolationism.

    "We can't be isolationists and win the war on terror," Bush told listeners at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry House. "Because it would prevent us from doing our duty around the world -- to not only make this world a place where terrorists have trouble recruiting, but to live to that admonition: to whom much is given much is required."

    Bush also touched on his theme that the nation must be economically competitive. (Watch Bush's out-of-character approach -- 2:08 )

    "Protectionism doesn't work," Bush said. "Protectionism would default to other countries in the world. That's not the American way. America must be confident and lead and do what is necessary to keep us competitive."

    As he did on Tuesday night, Bush -- a former oil executive -- warned about a national Achilles' heel that affects most Americans: U.S. dependence on foreign oil -- much of it from politically unstable regions of the world.

    "Most important of all, it seems like to me, if you recognize the fact that being dependent upon oil is a problem for the long term, why don't we figure out how to drive our cars using a different type of fuel?"

    Democrats are providing counterpoint to Bush's speeches, many of whom slammed his ideas Tuesday as more of the same.

    "I thought that speech was tired," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, an Illinois Democrat. "I thought that speech said, 'if you liked the last six years, we're going to give you two more years of that.' The Democrats are saying, 'it's time for new priorities that put the American people first and change the direction of this country.'"

    Thursday, Bush is scheduled to take his message to Minnesota.

    Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada accused Bush of failing to take bold initiatives -- in a striking contrast to last year's address -- when the president proposed Social Security private savings accounts, which eventually failed to gain widespread support. (Watch a slide show of the highlights of the speech)

    "The president's speech tonight used lofty, yet recycled, rhetoric to paint a picture of a country that has prospered and become stronger in this new century," Reid said. "Unfortunately, that's not the America his policies have created for too many families... A year ago, the president overreached by threatening to privatize and dismantle Social Security. This year, he reached for too little." (Transcript)

    The only African-American in the Senate, Illinois Democrat Barack Obama, said Bush "talked about the things that I think need to be talked about. Health care, education, energy independence, but there wasn't any beef there. There didn't seem to be any serious proposals that would call America to action."

    Bush delivered the speech after what may have been the most difficult year of his presidency. The government's response to Hurricane Katrina hurt the administration politically as did a Washington lobbying scandal and discontent over the Iraq war. On Tuesday, Bush responded to so-called kitchen-table concerns, such as rising energy prices.

    "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." (Watch the president describe America's 'serious' addiction to oil -- 2:20)

    "We will increase our research in better batteries for hybrid and electric cars, and in pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen." (Domestic points)

    And to bolster American competitiveness in the global economy, Bush 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."

    Bush's GOP rival in the 2000 presidential race, Sen. John McCain, said Wednesday he liked the address. "We are very vulnerable to - quote -- oil shocks," said the Arizona Republican. "And we've got to get independence from it and I think the president's note of urgency is very, very appropriate."

    Instant poll

    In interviews with 464 adult Americans who watched the speech, 48 percent said they had a very positive reaction. 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.

    Baby boomer retirement

    Bush announced initiatives on entitlement issues.

    "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."

    Delivering the Democratic Party 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."

    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."

    House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said Bush came up short on his comments about the war. "Is what we're doing in Iraq making the American people safer?" asked the California Democrat. "Is it strengthening our military to help us fight threats in other parts of the world, and is it bringing stability to the region? On those three scores, the answer is no."

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