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In State of the Union, Bush to begin framing legacy

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These include the economic stimulus package, an item on which Bush has reached a quick accord with House Democrats, and updated warrantless eavesdropping legislation, a bill that's been the subject of heated partisan fights.

Bush will also mention some actions that he can take without congressional approval, via executive orders or other administrative action, spokeswoman Perino said.

President Bill Clinton often promoted such small-bore steps as a means of appearing dynamic despite facing a Congress controlled by the political opposition.

Notably absent from the speech will be the unveiling of new initiatives on immigration or Social Security reform, or similar big problems. Perino blamed the likelihood of congressional inaction for this omission – not waning political strength or the shortness of Bush's remaining time in the Oval Office.

On foreign affairs, Bush will highlight recent successes in Iraq, according to White House officials, and talk about the fact that US troops levels there will soon start to decline. He'll discuss the Middle East peace process and the prospect of Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation, and work in mentions of US aid in the fight against global hunger and disease.

"He's put all of his soul and all of his might into being president, and this year will be no exception," said Perino.

That might be one of the points of this year's State of the Union – the beginning of a push to present his overall effort as president in positive terms.

After all, few people still are looking to Bush for political leadership, says George Edwards III, a presidential scholar at Texas A&M University. Only about one-third of the country approves of his job performance. A majority of Americans believe that beginning the war in Iraq was a mistake, according to many polls. Many voters have tuned out the White House to focus on the contenders for the 2008 presidential election, Dr. Edwards says.

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