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Speech fails to impress Clinton and Schumer

The state of the union looks very different to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton than it did to the man she wants to replace.

Clinton, D-N.Y., on Tuesday criticized President Bush's State of the Union address, saying it showed Bush wants to stay a failing course in Iraq. Clinton also said Bush offered promises of bipartisanship on domestic issues but fell short on specifics.

Asked about Bush's Iraq comments while appearing on NBC shortly after Bush's speech, Clinton said: "It's really more of the same. We've been down this road before."

Clinton said the Democratic Party favors a comprehensive approach to Iraq, including "a full-court diplomatic effort," instead of adding 21,500 troops on the ground.

The speech "was really a defense of his Iraq policy," Clinton said in a later interview on ABC, adding that the other sections of the speech were short on detail.

However, Clinton added: "I was delighted to hear he's looking for ways to work with us, especially on health care and energy. He will find a very receptive audience both in the House and Senate."

But Clinton was critical of Bush's health care proposals, saying he proposed "decimating the safety net" to try to expand health coverage.

She also said she wasn't sure that Bush would be as bipartisan as he said he would be.

Clinton was by no means the only New York Democrat to criticize Bush's speech.

Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., noted that the bipartisan criticism of Bush's Iraq plan didn't appear to affect the president.

"The president is standing by his plan that has been rejected by just about everyone else -- the American people, the Congress, so many of our top generals and even Prime Minister [Nouri] al-Maliki," Schumer said. "An escalation without any change in course makes no sense and will be rejected by Congress and the American people."

Schumer also said Bush's nods toward bipartisanship must be met with more substance.

"Just about every one of the president's proposals fall within the narrow ideological contours that the voters rejected in 2006," Schumer said. "We hope as the year progresses his actions will more closely mirror his bipartisan words."

Meanwhile, Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, a Fairport Democrat who heads the powerful House Rules Committee, accused Bush of plowing old political ground without planting any seeds that could lead to bipartisan solutions.

"From Iraq to health care, from energy security to economic security, the country has already heard what President Bush said tonight," Slaughter said. "The challenge for this administration is not identifying what our national priorities should be. The challenge is transforming a long string of promises into meaningful and effective action."

Rep. Brian M. Higgins, D-Buffalo, agreed.

"I thought it was short on ambition, short on detail, short of commitment to follow through," Higgins said.

In particular, Higgins said that Bush's energy proposal was "too little, too late" and that his comments on Iraq were "more of the same."

Of course, Republicans were far more happy to hear what Bush had to say. Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence, said he saw room for common ground in the president's words.

"Working together, I believe Republicans and Democrats can achieve real results for the American people," Reynolds said. "Tonight's speech has provided a way forward toward the bipartisan and common-sense solutions that this Congress has a responsibility to produce."

Reynolds also offered cautious words of support for Bush's plan for Iraq. "Like all Americans and Western New Yorkers, my patience is limited, but I will not play politics with our troops," Reynolds said. "They deserve the support, supplies and funding they need to be successful."

But Reynolds was quick to add: "I do want to see the Iraqis step up as equal partners, because our patience is limited."


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