Republicans are closing ranks, Democrats voicing doubts, after President Bush's State of the Union vow to use the "full force and might of the U.S. military" if needed to disarm Saddam Hussein's Iraq.
"Unless we stand fast and stand strong, the forces of evil will not disappear," House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said Tuesday night after Bush's speech before Congress and a global television audience that included U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf. "This is not the time for the timid leadership offered by the naysayers."
But Bush had scarcely completed his condemnation of the Iraqi leader, including an explicit, prime time listing of Iraqi torture techniques, when Sen. Edward Kennedy issued a fresh challenge. "Instead of rushing down the path to war with Iraq, the American people deserve a full debate," the Massachusetts Democrat said.
Congress voted last fall to authorize military action, but Kennedy said he wanted to require Bush to give Congress "convincing evidence of an imminent threat" before sending troops to war.
Half of the president's speech, delivered to a crowded House chamber and with hundreds of protesters on the Capitol lawn outside, was devoted to domestic policy, a recognition that the economy needs mending and that the new GOP-controlled Congress is eager to tackle issues ranging from overhauling Medicare to curtailing abortion to limiting damage awards from medical malpractice lawsuits.