Humor, apathy mark student reaction to speech

This article has been corrected. You may view this article’s correction here.

As President George W. Bush ’68 addressed the country Tuesday night, conservative students toasted him and leftist Yalies booed him at gatherings around campus.

In his State of the Union address, Bush concentrated on tax cuts, health care and the high possibility of going to war with Iraq. Students responded with a mix of praise and criticism, focusing on whether Bush will follow through on his words.

Some students, particularly those affiliated with Yale’s political parties, watched the address together. About 20 Yale College Democrats watched from the Branford College television room, while about 10 members of the Party of the Right played a Bush drinking game — taking a drink every time Bush said “axis of evil” — in Trumbull College.

Elsewhere in Trumbull, about 90 students watched the speech at a gathering organized by the Yale Coalition for Peace.

Steve Schwartz ’05, a member of the Tory Party, said he thought the part of the speech focusing on Iraq was compelling. Schwartz said he was disappointed that the president did not set out all of the evidence against Iraq, but he was impressed with what Bush said.

“It makes probably the most convincing case for action against Iraq I’ve seen so far,” Schwartz said.

Party of the Right member David O’Leary ’06 said Bush’s speech convinced him that the United States will not go to war in vain.

Yale College Democrats President Alicia Washington ’05 said she was surprised Bush did not discuss any race-related domestic issues, such as affirmative action, considering that the Republicans have been trying to widen their appeal to minorities.

Don Phan ’05 said he, too, wished Bush had mentioned affirmative action.

Washington said she wondered if Bush would follow through on his promise.

“Its just hard to get a good feel for just how faithful he’s going to be to his word,” Washington said.

Washington said she thought Bush’s approval might go up because of his speech, but that it will not stay high.

“As time passes and people see he’s not following through, I think that it will drop back down,” Washington said.

Yale Coalition for Peace member Leela Yellesetty ’05 also said she thought Bush’s approval would drop overall.

“I don’t think he sold the war,” Yellesetty said.

Yale Coalition for Peace members plan to respond to the speech with a rally titled “The Sorry State of the Union” at the High Street Gate at 8 p.m. tonight.

Others said before the speech that they did not plan to watch it. Intramural sports, rehearsals and meetings kept some Yalies away from the television. And some said they simply had no interest in listening to Bush.

Rachel Stanton ’05 said she had watched past State of the Union addresses, but she did not intend to watch this one in full.

“[Former President] Clinton is an educated man who speaks quite eloquently, I really enjoyed watching his speeches. But President Bush is just too painful to watch,” Stanton said.

Dennis Hong ’05 said Tuesday afternoon that he would not watch the speech either because he expected little of it.

“I don’t think he will say anything important or anything I don’t already know,” Hong said.

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