Jan 24 2007

State leaders react to State of the Union address

Troy Messenger

By Matt Clower

President Bush challenged a Democratic-controlled congress to support a new strategy in Iraq and the war on terror during the State of the Union address Tuesday night.

“Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq and I ask you to give it a chance to work,” Bush said. “And I ask you to support our troops in the field and those on their way.”

He described the war in Iraq as part of the larger battle against Islamic extremists and said the Iraq war had changed dramatically with the outbreak of sectarian warfare and reprisals.

“This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we are in,” the president said. “Every one of us wishes that this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned and our own security at risk.”

Congressman Terry Everett said it was obvious things have not gone well in Iraq. But he said he shared the President's conviction that terrorists must be defeated.

“No one can offer a compelling argument for withdrawing our troops from Iraq before their job is done, and the President made it clear that is not an option,” Everett said. “A win for the terrorists in Iraq would place Islamic radicals in a much better position to spread their hate agenda throughout that Middle East and encourage more attacks on America.”

Sen. Richard Shelby said that like many Americans he also is growing skeptical about the war and the President's decision to increase the number of troops.

“I continue to believe that we must support our troops regardless of the circumstances,” Shelby said. “However, I have expressed my reservations about the President's plan and will continue to question the President and our military leaders to make certain that we do everything we can to ensure that the Iraqi people take responsibility for their government and their country so that our men and women in uniform can return home.”

Shelby and Everett questioned Bush's stance on immigration reform.

“Yet again, the President's proposal offers amnesty to illegal immigrants and I will not support any legislation that turns a blind eye and rewards illegal immigrants for breaking the law,” Shelby said.

Everett said he supported tighter border security, but said he would not support any form of amnesty.

Pike County Republican Party Chairman Adam Drinkwater said he was impressed by Bush's suggestion for health-care reform.

“He's looking at taking some vital and necessary steps toward making health care affordable for all Americans,” Drinkwater said.

On Iraq, Drinkwater said he hopes Congress can find the unity to support the President's plan. “He said that regardless of their differences, the members of Congress didn't vote for failure and I think that's the key. I think when you look at this struggle ... we need to work together, regardless of whether we are Democrats or Republicans, in order to see it through.”