An optimistic vision put forth last night by President George W. Bush ’68 in his annual State of the Union address drew mixed reactions from University professors and students, leaving some feeling that the lofty goals presented in the speech were not accompanied by clear plans for implementation.
Among the topics Bush discussed were a long-term solution to the country’s reliance on oil, the need to maintain global economic competitiveness and the re-evaluation of education and social-security programs.
Yale President Richard Levin, who co-wrote a National Academy of Sciences report released this summer titled “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” said he supports Bush’s recommendations for increased spending on basic research for physical sciences, a research and development tax credit and enhancement of education for math and science high-school teachers, which reflect three of the report’s suggestions. Levin said he hopes the Bush administration will support legislation currently pending in the Senate that embraces the remainder of the report’s proposals.
“There are many more specific recommendations in our National Academy report,” Levin said. “If the administration gets behind that legislation, then a lot more of our report would be reflected in national policies.”
Other professors said they agreed with Bush’s calls for reform, but would have preferred a more immediate plan for reform on the related issue of energy reliance.
“I think one of the criticisms that environmentalists have had all along about the administration is the fact that so many of them are from energy industries, so to have a president saying we have an addition to oil is refreshing,” School of Forestry professor Marian Chertow said. “I was encouraged by many of the things he said about energy, but I feel like we could reach some of the goals sooner.”
Other professors said Bush laid out the wrong vision for the country by relying on platitudes instead of addressing specific issues facing the country, such as a failing health-care policy.
“I thought the speech as a whole was long on aspiration, extensive about hopefulness and utterly unconvincing about anything domestic,” political science professor Theodore Marmor said. “I would call it the ‘State of President Bush’s Aspirations’ rather than the ‘State of the Union.’ “
But economics professor George Hall said he thinks Bush’s fiscal proposals are wise and timely.
“His call for freer trade is smart,” Hall said. “It’s important for us to stay productive, and I think the calls for us to increase our strength in math and science is an excellent policy regardless of what’s happening in India and China.”
The address hit on the issues that split the country, said Brendan Gants ’08, president of the Yale College Democrats.
“Democrats and Republicans clearly have different visions for the country,” he said.
Alex Gregath ’09, a member of the Yale College Republicans, reacted more positively to the speech.
“I thought it was a fantastic address by President Bush,” Gregath said. “He mentioned all the key points. I don’t think the Democratic response was all that strong.”
The State of the Union came just hours after the confirmation and swearing-in of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito LAW ’75 and the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Following the speech, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine delivered the Democratic response.