The New York Times' Carl Hulse asserted that, while Democrats were "pleased" that President Bush was giving his final State of the Union speech, "they were not as elated about ... its emphasis on reducing the pet projects known as earmarks beloved by many in Congress." Yet Hulse left out a different reason for congressional criticism of Bush's earmark threat -- that, when the Republicans controlled Congress, Bush approved all of their earmark-laden appropriations bills. Nor did Hulse report that the Democrats approved fewer earmarks last year than the Republicans did in 2006 when they controlled Congress.
In a January 29 New York Times article about congressional reaction to President Bush's January 28 State of the Union address, staff writer Carl Hulse asserted that while Democrats "were clearly pleased that this was to be his last State of the Union speech, they were not as elated about the contents, particularly its emphasis on reducing the pet projects known as earmarks beloved by many in Congress." Hulse then quoted Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) stating that "Congress will make a big mistake if we don't jump on board with his idea for earmark reform." Yet Hulse left out a different reason -- reported in a separate Times article on the same day -- for congressional criticism of Bush's earmark threat: that for his entire term in office, until the Democrats took the majority of both houses of Congress, Bush, in the words of Times reporter David D. Kirkpatrick, "showed no compunction about helping the Republicans who controlled Congress pour out federal money for members' pet projects."
Kirkpatrick also wrote that "Bush was notably silent on the subject [of earmarks] until after his fellow Republicans lost control of Congress in the 2006 midterm elections," and quoted Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Chris Van Hollen (MD) stating: "When the president and the Republican Congress had the power to address this, they did nothing."
Hulse's report also did not mention that congressional Democrats "passed laws requiring lawmakers for the first time to take public responsibility for the earmarks they added to spending bills," as Kirkpatrick noted, or that "Democrats last year actually approved fewer earmarks than Republicans did [in 2006] when they ran Congress," as the Politico reported on January 22. Kirkpatrick further reported that while House Republicans have "become the most vocal critics of earmarks," the House Republican conference "blocked a proposal by its leaders to stop seeking earmarks" when the party was in power.
From Hulse's January 29 Times article:
The State of the Union is one of the major annual set pieces on Capitol Hill, and the complex was buzzing with receptions, preparations and political talk. The Arab television station Al Jazeera for the first time had a camera station in Statuary Hall, where lawmakers flock after the address to deliver reactive sound bites to television stations back home.
Democrats believe that Mr. Bush's tenure has put them in strong shape for the coming elections. And while they were clearly pleased that this was to be his last State of the Union speech, they were not as elated about the contents, particularly its emphasis on reducing the pet projects known as earmarks beloved by many in Congress.
Republicans said they thought Democrats were misreading public opinion just as they had misread Mr. Bush for years.
"I think he wants to finish strong," said Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. "President Bush and I have disagreed at times, but I think he has been a bold president with his ideas. Congress will make a big mistake if we don't jump on board with his idea for earmark reform."
Leading Democrats said the focus on home-state spending that many constituents expect was the very definition of small-bore thinking. A few compared it to former President Bill Clinton's 1994 State of the Union embrace of school uniforms as a way to stem school violence. Mr. Reid said the president was evidently "hard up" for policy initiatives.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat working with the administration on the economic plan, said, "To realize that the president of the United States, in his final State of the Union address, is not talking about the promise of the future, he is talking about the process of an appropriations bill, I think that's pretty sad."
Representative Jack Kingston, a Georgia Republican, said there was definitely a different feel in the House.
"I think there was a certain relaxation and calmness to the president knowing it was his last speech," he said. "And I think there was a certain relaxation and calmness to the Democrats knowing it was his last speech."