The responses of Illinois congressmen to President Bush's annual State of the Union speech are symptomatic of a serious problem the United States faces - political wrangling.
While Republicans praised the president for being confident and showing leadership, Democrats said he provided nothing new.
The bipartisanship could begin there - both were right.
Bush did pull both sides together with his repeated message to support our troops in a war against terrorism that has strained our budget, preventing an influx of new programs. Lawmakers cheered when the president mentioned supporting our troops. Doing otherwise would probably get them voted out of office. But it was obvious that many who gave the president the green light to enter into Iraq want to distance themselves from that decision now that there are casualties and the war drags on.
So, it wasn't surprising to see Democrats join Republicans in an unusual five-minute, standing ovation when President Bush pointed to the gallery and the parents and wife of a sergeant killed in Iraq. We can't recall such an ovation in recent memories of the State of the Union speeches.
That recognition particularly pleased U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, a Republican from Peoria. LaHood also liked the way the president called for bipartisanship on the economy and other issues, which should be expected from a representative who has encouraged more civility and compromise in Washington.
But Senators Barack Obama, a Chicago Democrat, and Dick Durbin, a Springfield Democrat, were as disappointed as LaHood was pleased. Obama said after five years, of "timid solutions to great national challenges," Americans are questioning Bush's leadership and becoming "- more uncertain about the direction of the country they love." And Durbin said people were looking for new ideas that were lacking in the president's speech, specifically more detail on how to resolve the health-care crisis.
It's virtually impossible to get away from the political rhetoric today, but if one could be so fortunate and watched Tuesday night's speech, they would probably not be surprised if things are in a turmoil. It's difficult to chart a course when so many "leaders" want to go in different directions and sometimes reject good ideas just because they aren't their ideas.
Maybe that is why President Bush spent about 20 minutes talking about the Middle East and terrorism Tuesday night. Lawmakers are united in halting terrorism. They separate on ways in which it should be done.
Sen. Durbin was right. Bush didn't spend much time on healthcare. Maybe that's because Bush doesn't have the answers to rising costs. So Durbin should support the president's call for a bipartisan solution to increasing Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid costs - the latter two being major factors in increasing healthcare costs for everyone. Earlier, the president offered and Democrats rejected his solution to Social Security, which prompted the only demonstrative Democratic jeering during his speech. But as the president reminded them, "the problem is not going away."
For the critics who refer to President Bush and Vice President Cheney as the "oil men" because of their backgrounds in the oil industry, it must have been a bit of surprise to hear Bush acknowledge that Americans are "addicted to oil." He followed that with a promise to invest in alternative energy sources that would "- make our dependence on Middle Eastern oil a thing of the past."
Although the State of the Union was among Bush's better speeches, it was still a typical, sometimes boring address that is one of the requirements of our Constitution. It wasn't filled with the handouts as some previous sessions have been. And that is as it should be with a nation $8.2 trillion in debt, a debt that opponents always use against a president without admitting their involvement by demanding "earmarks" - billions of dollars annually in taxpayer money that they spend on pet projects in their districts to get re-elected. For the president to say Tuesday night that there are "too many earmarks" was an understatement.