DEMOCRATS in New Hampshire had their response ready for George Bush's State of the Union address: "Come home to America."
Hundreds of Democrats gathered in this hard-hit town to listen to the president's speech just 21 days before the New Hampshire presidential primary. Like many voters in this state, they worry about what they call Mr. Bush's lack of focus on the domestic economy.
Curly Thornton, a minor Democratic candidate for president, put it this way: "I have a problem sending $640 million to Russia [a recent Bush proposal] when Americans are homeless, jobless, foodless, and penniless."
Fred Place, president of the New Hampshire Education Association, observed that with the self-described "education president" in the White House, this state's schools are failing, education programs are being slashed, class size is rising, textbooks are outdated and in short supply, and "our students are being left behind."
The mostly partisan crowd listened quietly to the president's speech. But many were disappointed that he failed to take bolder economic steps that could help this badly depressed state.
Following the president's talk, former Gov. Jerry Brown of California drew big cheers when he said that the president:
1. Should have cut military spending deeper to free funds for domestic jobs programs.
2. Failed to cut taxes for the average citizen, while helping the rich.
3. Ignored the problem of growing disparity between working Americans and those at upper income levels.
4. Imposed no cost controls on medical care, on which Americans now spend $800 billion a year.
5. Failed even to mention the problem of AIDS.
6. Praised America's wars in Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East, but ignored the calls for a much more vigorous war at home on the economic crisis.
United States Rep. Dan Swett (D) of New Hampshire complained: "I heard a lot of status quo" in the president's speech.
Sen. Tom Harkin, another Democrat running for president, said Bush's speech "could only have come from a person who is totally out of touch with what is happening in America."
Senator Harkin criticized Bush's call for a $50 billion reduction (2.5 percent) in the defense budget over five years. Harkin angrily noted that Bush's plan still leaves America with a "cold-war budget" even though the "war" is over.