Americans need reason to believe in government
If the adage that misery loves company is true, President Bush should feel at home tonight when he delivers his State of the Union message to Congress.
The American people are still surly; their venting against Republicans on Nov. 7 continues into the new year. According to public opinion polls, 60 percent of Americans have lost faith in their federal government. Two-thirds of the nation thinks the nation needs a new course, particularly in Iraq.
So, when he tells Congress and the nation that the U.S. is strong tonight and doing well, he's got a major selling job. But he has a problem with credibility because only 44 percent of the people think he is honest. Selling ideas to people who think you are basically dishonest is an uphill struggle.
The "culture of corruption" theme Democrats used to win control of Congress for the first time in 12 years still hovers over Capitol Hill where the president will deliver his message at 7 p.m.
The nation is pessimistic that the congressional changes will have a major impact. Nearly half of the people polled don't think, despite the rhetoric of bipartisanship, the Congress and president will work together.
Their concern is justified. The president has staked out his territory in the war in Iraq. Despite major differences with the Democratic majority, the president is sending more troops. Neither is he happy with legislation the House passed in its first 100 hours of the new Congress.
Political experts say the president needs to say certain things in his speech for it to go well. But there is nothing more important for the president and Congress than to give Americans reason to believe in their government again.