In his first State of the Union, President Bush said the war on terror is not over, and named North Korea, Iran and Iraq as members of an "axis of evil."
Bush told a joint session of Congress and a national television audience Tuesday night that fighting terror internationally is only part of the challenge. Ensuring domestic security and battling the recession are also priorities, Bush said.
But it was the war that provoked the strongest comments. "What we have found in Afghanistan confirms that — far from ending there — our war against terror is only beginning," Bush said, delivering a direct warning to nations that threaten the security of the United States.
"I will not wait on events while dangers gather," Bush said. "I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons."
Bush said terror training camps still exist in at least a dozen countries. He said documents seized from terrorist facilities in Afghanistan included diagrams of nuclear power plants and water facilities as well as surveillance information on U.S. cities and landmarks.
Singling out the capital cities of the "axis of evil" — Pyongyang, Tehran and Baghdad — Bush said "We know their true nature" despite their relative silence since Sept. 11.
He said North Korea was developing weapons of mass destruction while starving its people, that Iran was exporting terror while repressing freedom at home and Iraq "continues to flaunt its hostility toward America and to support terror," and has pursued chemical and biological weapons.
"Steadfast in our purpose, we now press on. We have known freedom's price. We have shown freedom's power. And in this great conflict, my fellow Americans, we will see freedom's victory," Bush said.
In the Democratic response, House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt of Missouri thanked the military, and told the nation's enemies "We're going to hunt you down and make you pay."
Interrupted by frequent applause, the president detailed the accomplishments in the war on terror, from the end of the Taliban regime to the destruction of terrorist training camps.
Bush began his speech at about 9:15 p.m. ET, telling assembled lawmakers, administration officials, Supreme Court justices and selected guests that the state of the union "has never been stronger," despite the continued terrorist threat and economic recession.
To help prevent terror at home, Bush called for federal funding for homeland security to double, focusing on four areas: bioterrorism, emergency response, airport and border security, and improved intelligence.
"Homeland security will make America not only stronger but in many ways better. Knowledge gained from bioterrorism research will improve public health. Stronger police and fire departments will mean safer neighborhoods. Stricter border enforcement will help combat illegal drugs," Bush said.
‘One Word: Jobs’
Bush also said he intends to make job creation his top domestic priority.
"When America works, America prospers, so my economic security plan can be summed up in one word: jobs," Bush said.
Along with job creation, the president touched on welfare, education, and environmental initiatives — but offered no details on any. He is expected to announce a number of programs in the coming days, as he embarks on a campaign-style trip to promote his agenda.