”’Washington, D.C. – Congressman Ed Case (Hawaii, Second District), who returned to Washington, D.C. for today’s start of the 2004 Congressional session, had the following comments after listening on the House floor to the president’s state-of-the-union message:”’

Like most Americans, I feel a frustrating mix of agreement and disagreement with the President. Yes, we are on the right track in key areas. Yet there are too many other areas where this administration is pursuing seriously misguided initiatives and sweeping others under the rug. In too many areas, presidential rhetoric simply doesn’t match the reality I’ve seen firsthand in Washington.

I agree with the President that we are on the right track in the war on terrorism. This is in fact a different war against a different enemy, and only a resolute, sustained, broad-based response, which I agree we must pursue, will carry the day. Yet how does that reconcile with this administration’s short funding of homeland security and veterans programs, and erosion of basic constitutional rights in the name of national security?

I agree that we must finish the job in Iraq and Afghanistan; the consequences of walking away now are not acceptable. Yet are we to just forget the President’s representation of just one year ago that the indisputable presence of weapons of mass destruction justified immediate and unilateral intervention?

I agree with the President’s emphasis on economic vitality, and that some aspects of our economy are showing recovery. But left unsaid is that whatever growth is occurring has not generated jobs, and that the tax cuts the administration credits have in fact driven our federal budget into a vast and deepening deficit. The President believes the answer lies in increased job retraining programs and further tax breaks, but then where’s that money going to come from: we already have a $7 trillion debt.

I agree with the President’s emphasis on education, and share his belief that the bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act was a needed reform effort. But then why did his administration refuse to fund the federal mandates of that law?

I agree with the President’s focus on the rapidly escalating costs of health care, and have already cosponsored some administration initiatives like health savings accounts. But then why did this administration and its congressional allies fight so hard against reasonable cost controls on prescription drugs?

I agree that we live in a time of great change, which requires that we act as true stewards for the generations to follow. But it is inescapable that this administration’s priorities are too often focused on what will optimize election year politics. Our looming federal budget crisis, brought on by politically popular decisions the cumulative consequences of which will not become fully evident until after this year, is the most blatant example.

And then there are areas of vital importance that the President did not touch on significantly, with good reason. Most particularly, his administration has utterly failed to fulfill its obligation to provide good stewardship for our environment. His administration’s energy bill represents a giant backward step in national energy policy. His administration has demonstrated no inclination to serious campaign finance reform because it is the undisputed master of the special interest-campaign contribution loop. His administration has paid only lip service to the rights and needs of women and minorities.

In the end, I agree with the president that the state of our union is basically sound, and I support various initiatives the administration professes to pursue. But actions speak louder than words. There are simply too many other policy initiatives or omissions which, in the politically polarized special interest culture that is Washington today, are cause for great concern with the overall direction of this administration and its congressional allies.

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