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Send Troops to New Orleans Instead of Baghdad - Presidential Candidates React to the State of the Union Speech

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While the president is to be commended for his remarks on domestic issues including health care, energy alternatives and immigration reform in his State of the Union speech last night, it is shocking that he did not even bring up the topic of New Orleans.

If there is any place that could use American troops it would be the city of New Orleans to help curtail the rising murder rate and to continue rebuilding that devastated city.

Why didn't President Bush mention New Orleans or the many other still battered coastal areas that have not yet recovered from Katrina?

The government should be putting more resources into rebuilding the Big Easy's infrastructure and trying to find ways of enticing former citizens to return.

We are losing too much of our culture by forgetting New Orleans. Surely, the president's legacy would be better if he made a full-scale effort to rebuild a unique American city rather than focusing so completely on a city called Baghdad.

He would find quite a bit more support for sending troops, more money and more support to New Orleans than he will find by sending a "surge" of more than 20, 000 American troops into harm's way in Iraq.

His priorities should be turned around and there could be no better way to demonstrate his commitment to domestic issues than by paying serious and real attention to New Orleans and the other coastal areas.

The president would certainly see his approval ratings rise by changing his focus from Baghdad to New Orleans.

The president's speech was better than usual and it was refreshing to hear him talk about issues other than Iraq for at least part of the time.

The new senator from Virginia Jim Webb gave an impressive Democratic response to the president. It was forceful and straight to the point on Iraq. It had some teeth in it unlike the normally bland responses in the past. Webb calls it like he sees it and that is good.

Following are reactions from some of the 2008 presidential candidates to the president's State of the Union speech:

Senator Joe Biden, D-Delaware
"Our resolution of disapproval is not an attempt to embarrass the president," Biden, a Delaware Democrat, said. "It is an attempt to save the president from making a significant mistake with regard to our policy in Iraq."

Senator Hillary Clinton, D-New York
"The President finally acknowledged the problem of global warming and the need to develop alternative energy sources, but he did not offer a real plan to deal with climate change or to put us on a path to energy independence. The President finally addressed the need to deal with the health care crisis, but offered a proposal that does nothing make health insurance more affordable or accessible for the millions of uninsured and underinsured Americans. The President called for No Child Left Behind to be reauthorized this year, but has failed to ensure the funding needed to fulfill the promise of this landmark law. And instead of charting a new course in Iraq, including the political solution desperately needed, so that we can begin to bring our troops home, the President continued his defense of failed strategy and his escalation plan in Iraq."

Senator Chris Dodd, D-Connecticut
"I'm heartened to hear the President speak about creating a sustainable energy independence plan, expanding health care access for the millions of Americans who are uninsured, tackling comprehensive immigration reform and ensuring educational success for all Americans...I remain steadfastly opposed to the President's plan for Iraq, sending thousands more of our nation's men and women into harm's way in a country in the midst of a civil war...Tomorrow in the Foreign Relations Committee, I will offer the legislation I introduced last week which limits troop levels in Iraq without new authorization by Congress in advance."

Former Senator John Edwards, D-North Carolina
"President Bush's address tonight was heavy on rhetoric, but light on everything else. The American people said they wanted change and what they got was more of the same -- small ideas that won't make a difference in the lives of working Americans...President Bush's decision to adopt the McCain Doctrine and escalate the war in Iraq is terribly wrong. There is no military solution to this civil war. Instead of increasing the number of troops in Iraq, we should immediately withdraw 40-50,000 troops."
"I thought back to a year ago when the president said, 'We're committed to New Orleans, we won't desert you, we'll stay with you until the problems are solved.' And they're not. I was very surprised to hear the president not focus on that tonight. ... I think overall there were a couple of good things and bad things. ... I think now is the time for bold leadership, not small, baby steps, and that was the disappointing part."

New York's former mayor, Rudolph W. Giuliani
"I thought it did what the president had to do, which was to get us beyond Iraq," he said.
Of President Bush's new strategy in Iraq, Mr. Giuliani echoed his earlier, measured support. "The strategy makes sense; it makes sense that it works better than what we were doing before."
He also criticized Senator Jim Webb's Democratic rebuttal, expressing puzzlement at how the Virginia Democrat could call for an Iraq plan that was "not a precipitous withdrawal" but that would "in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq."
"I believe we should give the president the support to do this."

Senator Chuck Hagel, R-Nebraska
"I appreciate what the President said tonight about dramatically increasing renewable fuel standards, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, addressing the challenge of climate change, reforming our entitlement programs and fixing our broken immigration system. These are all issues of critical importance to Nebraska. I look forward to continuing to work with the President on these issues."

Senator John Kerry, D-Massachusetts
"The President missed a golden opportunity tonight to admit that he made a mistake in Iraq and to share with the American people a plan for gradually removing our troops and allowing the Iraqis to solve the political crisis in Iraq...The Congress must stand up against Bush's plan to escalate the war with a new surge of troops and I will be introducing legislation shortly to demand that the Administration set a date for withdrawing troops from Iraq."

Senator John McCain, R-Arizona
"This strategy ought to be given a chance, because the consequences of failure are immense, and we'll be back again some day," McCain told ABC News in a post-speech interview. "This is going to be long and hard and tough."

Senator Barack Obama, D-Illinois
"I don't think we're going to stem all the violence [in Iraq] anytime soon, but the key to dealing with the violence is making sure Sunni, Shia, and Kurd sit down and recognize they all have a stake in preventing total meltdown. What's preventing some of that conversation from taking place is the belief that we [the United States] will be able to hold this together. ... I think what's critical is for us to change the strategy in Iraq, because the president's right, we have important national security objectives that have to be met in the Middle East."

Governor Bill Richardson, D-New Mexico
"Welcome to the party, Mr. President, the rest of the country and the world have been talking and doing something about these issues for years. In addition to being years behind, what the President is proposing doesn't go far enough and isn't realistic...Ultimately we need a 'man-on-the moon' effort focused on energy independence. Anything less will not create the change necessary to make a lasting difference."

Former Governor Mitt Romney, R-Massachusetts
"I welcome President Bush's proposed initiatives to make health insurance more available and affordable...I am especially encouraged by the President's initiative to help states find new solutions for individuals to buy health insurance. I believe the states are our best laboratories to find the best policy innovations to our health insurance crisis. As Governor, my state found a way to get all of our citizens covered without a tax increase and without a big government takeover."

Representative Tom Tancredo, R-Colorado
On immigration: "If there is one thing this president seems intent on demonstrating to the American public again and again, it is that he is utterly tone deaf. The president and his new Democratic allies in Congress seem hell-bent on cramming this mass amnesty down the throats of American people whether they want it or not."
"The President certainly got his wish when he campaigned this past cycle, and did everything he could to guarantee a Congress sympathetic to his 'amnesty for all' plan. I am disappointed but not surprised that the president has once again chosen to trot out this same old pig -- albeit one with a slightly new shade of lipstick. If there is one thing this president seems intent on demonstrating to the American public again and again, it is that he is utterly tone deaf."