http://www.canoe.ca/NewsStand/Columnists/Toronto/Bob_MacDonald/2005/02/03/918591.html Thu, February 3, 2005 America's force of one By BOB MacDONALD -- For the Toronto Sun The trouble with George W. Bush for rival Democrats and other Bush haters is that he doesn't stand still. He no sooner wins one victory and he's moving on to the next challenge. What a contrast between the American president and our own hesitant, often dithering, prime minister, Paul Martin. It was never so apparent as last night's State of the Union address in which Bush pledged to open "a new phase" in establishing freedom and democracy in Iraq and to create peace in the Middle East. On the home front, Bush boldly announced his administration will tackle a chronically worsening situation a Social Security system that is "headed toward bankruptcy." "Fixing Social Security permanently will require an open, candid review of options. I will work with Congress to find the most effective combination of reforms," he said. Of course, he's moving into the lion's den on that one since the Democrats have long considered Social Security to be their issue. And Bush is proposing a plan that would allow Americans to invest some of their present contributions in private plans. Ah yes, private initiative. However, from a Canadian standpoint, Bush showed his usual class earlier yesterday when he refused to rub it in regarding Iraq in a telephone conversation with Martin. After all, both former Liberal PM Jean Chretien and his successor, Martin, have never missed an opportunity to voice opposition to the U.S.-led coalition "of the willing" that overthrew sadistic Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. Instead, they joined the France-Germany-Russia group, led by French President Jacques Chirac,in opposing the war. Well, we all know what happened on Sunday. The Iraqi people turned out in huge numbers, eight million strong, to defy terrorists' death threats and exercise their first free, democratic vote in more than 50 years. And they were joined by Iraqi voters in 14 other countries, including Canada. In Iraq, it took real courage and a longing to live as free people in a true democracy. Who can ever forget those lines of Iraqis, young and old, sick and infirm, men and women-stubbornly and happily standing in line to vote? "We applaud the courage of ordinary Iraqis for their refusal to surrender their future to these killers," declared Bush. And last night, he vowed to continue strengthening Iraq's security efforts against the terrorists. "We will increasingly focus our efforts on helping prepare more capable Iraqi security forces -- forces with skilled officers and an effective command structure," he said. As I said, Bush doesn't just make statements and political "promises," something we in Canada have become so used to from our glorious political leaders. Yesterday -- hours before his address -- he was on the phone to both allies in the Iraqi coalition and to some who opposed it, such as Martin. He praised Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for his support and the 3,000 Italian troops helping in Iraq. The same went for El Salvador President Tony Saca for the 380 soldiers his Western Hemisphere nation had sent. And when he spoke to Martin, there was no sniping at Canada for its attempts to undermine the coalition. Instead, Bush thanked Canada for sending representatives to an international team that attempted to observe whether the election was fair. Somehow, they did this from the safety of a luxury hotel in Jordan, a country from which some of the anti-democracy terrorists have operated. However, Bush indicated in last night's address that he is now ready to push for meaningful talks between Israel and the Palestinians to create a permanent peace agreement. And he will ask all who can help -- including Canada and such nations as France, Germany and Russia -- to do what they can to encourage the process. Israel and Palestine, "living side by side in peace, is within reach and America will help them achieve that goal," he said. And once more, this forceful, courageous American president touched his continuing, central theme: "The only force powerful enough to stop the rise of tyranny and terror and replace hatred with hope is the force of human freedom."