Coble Still Cool on Surge Plan
Congressman Howard Coble says he rejects President Bush's plea for more time in Iraq.
"By golly, I think the time has come to hand the baton over to the Iraqis," Coble said in reacting to Bush's State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night. "We've done the heavy lifting and they've been holding our coats. Now it's time for us to get our coats back and head on home."
In a speech dominated by discussion of the Iraqi war and terrorism, Bush asked the nation to allow for more time for U.S. troops to emerge victorious in Iraq. The president already has presented a plan to send more than 21,000 troops to the region.
Coble, a Greensboro Repub-lican, said Bush's address may have not done much to sell that plan to the Democratically-controlled Congress.
"I think one things that's driving Congress is the overwhelming expression of opposition by Americans," he said. "Most of the people want us out of Iraq, and it seems like the president simply does not hear that or is not responding to it."
This was Bush's fourth State of the Union address since the war in Iraq started, and it came amid growing national frustration with his administration.
In the past months, Bush has been beset by low approval ratings, the escalation of civil strife in Iraq, and, starting Tuesday, the trial of former administration aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
John Owen, chairman of the Moore County Republican Party, said he was proud of Bush for holding up under great pressure.
"At least he's had the courage to take a stand," Owen said. "It (the original Iraq plan) didn't work the way we wanted to, but at least he has the guts to stand up to the world and say, 'Here is another approach I think will work.' ...
"He's my president. I'm going to stay with him. I'm not going to criticize a president who is doing the best he can."
George Wilson, chairman of the Moore County Democratic Party, was not so complimentary.
"For six years, I've watched this administration, and I can't fathom why they can't see the big picture," he said. "I think they are narrow-minded and have no interest in seeing the big picture."
Wilson announced recently that he would step down as party chairman when his term ends in April.
Wilson said he is not confident Bush's administration will be able to complete the task.
"Theoretically, I agree with everything he said," Wilson said, citing Bush's calls for a controlled federal spending and reduced dependency on foreign oil. "He talks good sense, but he doesn't follow through."
Coble, who thought the president seemed confident during the speech, said Bush tried to make inroads with the Democratic Congress during his address.
"I appreciated the fact that he started his speech by saying 'Madam Speaker,'" Coble said. "I thought that was a nice gesture."
Outside of his foreign policy discussion, Bush outlined plans for broadening health-care coverage, reducing gasoline consumption and balancing the federal budget -- all priorities shared by Democratic leaders.
Bush also spoke of tax relief, immigration reform and boosting education performance.
"One that I particularly liked was the energy security," Coble said. "We are still dependent on oil that comes from the Middle East and some countries whose populace simply hate us."
With the Democrats controlling Congress, Coble said it remains to be seen if Bush will be able to have any measure of success in his proposals during the remainder of his term.
"Let's not pronounce the last rites yet," Coble said. "If he doesn't change, particularly as to Iraq after two or three months, he may well be destined for lame duck status. But it's too early to put that tag on him now."
Katherine Evans can be reached at 693-2480 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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