President Bush is expected in his State of the Union address tonight to recommit the U.S. government to helping rebuild the Gulf Coast torn by hurricanes, but he may not offer much in terms of new federal initiatives, according to White House aides and political experts.One of those aides is White House spokesman Scott McClellan:
Q Scott, you say the President is going to be optimistic tomorrow and there's been a lot of talk about being upbeat in his message. Many Americans believe that the President would have more credibility if he acknowledged some of the hardships that they're facing, whether or not there are people who are still homeless from Katrina, or U.S. casualties in Iraq. Is he going to address any of those things?Rebuilding the Gulf Coast is so pre-January 31. The Prez is focused on the future now.
MR. McCLELLAN: Well, the President often talks about those issues. And I do expect he will talk about Iraq tomorrow in his remarks, and I do expect he will talk about the importance of continuing to meet the needs of the people throughout the Gulf Coast region who have been put in a terrible situation because of a storm of unprecedented magnitude and scope. And we have an obligation to continue making sure that their needs are met. We have already passed some $85 billion in resources that are available to help them. Only about $25 billion or a little bit more than that has been allocated to be spent at this point. There is enormous resources available. We are going to continue working to meet their needs. And the President made it clear that, if needed, we will continue to build upon those efforts.
Anyway, go ahead. Did you have a follow-up?
Q Is that one of his initiatives, the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast?
MR. McCLELLAN: No. I mean, that's one of his initiatives now. But I'm talking about new initiatives now.
And there’s that $85 billion number again. I know I am obsessing here, but it really bothers me. And the official number of how much has been spent is still $25 billion. That has been the official number since at least January 12. We haven’t done anything new since then?
Here’s another choice quote from the White House briefing:
America is always at its best when we are shaping events, rather than being shaped by events. And the President tomorrow night will be charting the path forward for our nation. It's important that we continue leading and acting to spread peace abroad and prosperity at home. The President is optimistic and confident about the path that we are on.Are we all walking the same path?