President Bush's final State of the Union address wasn't a classic, but it may keep him in the game a while longer as a Washington player. Bush was more realistic than in the past, acknowledging the limits of his power as his time in office runs out. There were no big new initiatives but instead a call for Congress to stay the course in Iraq and Afghanistan and to complete some unfinished business, such as strengthening antiterrorist surveillance programs, making permanent his first-term tax cuts, and strengthening the No Child Left Behind Act.
He also urged Congress to pass an economic stimulus package. But Bush made clear that he has given up on two of his signature domestic proposals: overhaul of Social Security and of immigration laws. "It is unrealistic to expect that this Congress is going to take on such big problems this year," said White House Press Secretary Dana Perino. What remained was a batch of smaller ideas—what he used to disdain as "small ball"—including a crackdown on congressional "earmarks" or pet projects. And many Washington veterans weren't wowed. "It was a ho-hum speech," said a senior Republican with close ties to Capitol Hill.