Europeans React to Bush's Speech

Feb. 1, 2006 — -- The majority of the European coverage following the State of the Union address focused on President Bush's call to end America's oil addiction. It also zeroed in on the president's weakened state.

Many newspapers suggested that after a turbulent year, Bush's address to the nation was his chance to reinvigorate his presidency and win back the support of a disapproving public.

Under the headline "A Speech From a President Cut Down To Size," the Times of London focused on the president's struggle to take charge of the election-year agenda despite sagging polls.

"The U.S. got its first clear glimpse of just how scaled-down his presidential objectives have become," said Gerard Baker, the Times' U.S. editor.

Even as the president sought to rouse the nation in the biggest set-piece speech of the year, Baker wrote, there still was the commitment to seeing things through in Iraq, promoting democracy in the world and reforming America's economy.

He went on to say that Bush has had to moderate his ambitions after a catastrophic first year of his second term.

The German press followed suit.

Under the headline "America Is Addicted To Oil," the Süddeutsche Zeitung commended the president's avowed aim to reduce America's dependence on foreign oil by 2025. But the paper questioned how the president can make that happen since his proposal only amounted to a small increase in federal spending on alternative fuels.

The French newspaper Le Monde stressed that, for Bush, Tuesday's speech was an occasion to regain the initiative on a number of issues, not least the war on terror -- a favorite theme for this president.

"In the event, Bush could hardly show himself very blazing," wrote the National Daily under the headline "Weakened Bush."

Once again, Bush cited terrorism, it remarked, quoting him as saying, "The only means of overcoming the terrorists, it is (...) to offer the alternative full with hope of political freedom and of the peaceful change."

Not All Bad for Bush

The president's statements on Iraq and Iran also received a fair amount of coverage, with most European papers focusing on the uncompromising stance on the Iranian clerical elite while expressing the hope that one day America could become a close ally of a free and democratic Iran.

Bush's continued backing for the ongoing U.S. effort in Iraq also received some attention. Some commentators focused on the president's renewed demand that Hamas lay down its weapons.

The BBC's Justine Webb, writing online, suggested that this speech was "partly a re-statement of the Bush doctrine: that democracy inoculates nations from the hatreds and madness which lead to war."

The press was not all bad, and a few newspapers remarked that it's not over yet for America's political leader.

The London Times noted that the confirmation of Samuel Alito as a Supreme Court justice is an indication of how "a determined president armed with tools of smart political strategy can still prevail."