Last year, President Bush offered a lengthy list of worthy propositions covering the broadest possible range of security, foreign policy, economic, environmental, social and cultural issues. Even his most devoted supporters would find it difficult to recall any of these suggestions. At the moment, the public wants a sense of change and movement -- of logjams breaking, of progress and cooperation. The president can capture that spirit if he sketches a few lofty but comprehensible goals that people can remember, and may want to discuss the next day around breakfast tables or water coolers at work.
2. Emphasize Common Goals, Leaving Specifics to Future Fights
Even on the bitterly divisive question of Iraq policy, President Bush must affirm that he and his Democratic critics share the same crucial aims: a viable, pro-western, anti-terrorist government in Iraq, and the return of most of our troops before the end of his presidency. If he pledges to achieve dramatic force reductions within that specified time period, the Democrats won't contradict him on the desire for a stable Iraq -- even though many of them no longer believe that this long-term goal of U.S. policy is worth further sacrifice.
By the same token, the American people want to see ethical reform and a reduction in the influence of lobbyists and big business. The president should announce that he shares that desire with the Democrats, and therefore demands a new effort to scale back the biggest source of corruption: the intrusion of government bureaucracy into every corner of the economy and every intimate detail of our lives.
This speech could provide an unparalleled opportunity to link the public desire to clean up influence peddling and special interests with a sweeping new effort to scale back regulation and lawsuits and the diabolical complications of the tax system that help make the sleazy dealing all but inevitable.
Energy independence remains another area where the president can stress common goals. He's spoken at length about energy issues in each of his previous SOTU speeches, but even his surprising promotion of hydrogen vehicles made little impression. This time, he should sound an impassioned call for three over-arching aims that the Democrats must enthusiastically support -- much stronger conservation and energy efficiency, more development of alternative energy sources, and quickly increased production of domestic petroleum. He must plead for the necessary interdependence of these three goals, suggesting that an emphasis on only one or two of them will make meaningful progress impossible.
Michael Medved, best-selling author of "Right Turns" and "The Shadow Presidents," hosts a syndicated daily radio talk show focusing on the intersection of politics and pop culture. He blogs at http://michaelmedved.townhall.com/