Bush: U.S. Must Break Oil 'Addiction'

President Bush delivers the State of the Union to a joint session of Congress while Vice President Dick Cheney, left, and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, right, watch at the U.S. Capitol, Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2006, in Washington. CBS/AP

President Bush, politically weakened but determined to set the agenda in this election year, made freeing America from its oil dependency the centerpiece of his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante reports the president, as expected, also talked about the war in Iraq and the threat of nuclear weapons from Iran. But the headline was that the former oil man in the Oval Office said he believes that the United States needs to develop different sources of energy.

"We have a serious problem. America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world," he said.

To break the addiction, Mr. Bush announced new research into clean energy, including pollution-free autos and a push to make ethanol

"Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal: to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025," Mr. Bush told a joint session of Congress and a national prime-time television audience.

As has become traditional, Mr. Bush was hoping to capitalize on the attention surrounding the year's biggest speech by delivering a recap Wednesday in Nashville, Tenn.

After a tumultuous political year dotted with scandals swirling around his administration and dismal approval ratings, Mr. Bush sought to show Congress and the nation he could still lead forcefully. Seeking to quell the rancorous tone in Washington, Mr. Bush asked legislators to conduct debate in a "civil tone."

Democrats were skeptical. "I hope it's genuine," said Sen. Joe Biden, D-Del. "He says that all the time and then his administration comes out through the vice president, the secretary of defense and others, and says anyone who criticizes the war, they imply they are not patriotic.

"I hope we're beyond that," Biden told CBS News' The Early Show. I think the president is in enough trouble politically that he understands it's time to reach out."

Mr. Bush later switched gears, calling the U.S. economy "healthy and vigorous" and also asked Congress to make his proposed tax cuts permanent. "If we do nothing, American families will face a massive tax increase they do not expect and will not welcome," Mr. Bush said.

To boost competitiveness, the president called for the training of 70,000 high school teachers to lead advanced placement courses in math and science.

"If we ensure that America's children succeed in life, they will ensure that America succeeds in the world," said Mr. Bush.

Members of Congress from both parties applauded this statement on health care: "Keeping America competitive requires affordable health care."

But not all applauded the president's solutions: stronger health savings accounts and medical liability reform.

Democrats in Congress jumped to their feet, laughing and cheering, when the president said, "Congress did not act last year on my proposal to save Social Security."

This year, Mr. Bush simply asked for a commission to study the impact of baby boomer retirements on the federal government.

  • Dan Collins

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