President George W. Bush will give his first State of the Union speech to a Democratic-controlled Congress tonight. It will be his sixth since taking office. CBS News has his approval rating today at an all-time low of 28%. And the situation in Iraq is dire at best. Suffice it to say, it’s the Night of the Long Knives for Mr. Bush.

I feel bad for our President. He’s acting like a President with a 28% approval rating. Already today there are stories about a new focus on domestic issues like energy independence and health care. In fact, his health care idea might be an approach that Democrats could consider given the fact that it could amount to a tax hike for rich folks. But if anyone at the White House really believes that the American people will hear or even bother to listen to a speech that ignores the 800 lb Gorilla in the room – they are delusional.

I’m all for bold and new initiatives, but we have a full-blown crisis in Iraq. President Bush had an opportunity to make the case for his way forward and it bombed. And I say that constructively because some of the elements of his new way forward could indeed prove successful. But he did not accomplish the goal of reassuring the nation on the mission itself. The American people have a bad feeling in their gut about Iraq. It’s the President’s duty to lead us from this disaster. And there will be no shortage of naysayers on hand tonight to cheer his failure.

Mr. President, it’s Iraq tonight. Iraq, Iraq, Iraq.

There is a new kind of defeatism in Washington today. Few, if any, see opportunity where there is a mess. I was shocked at an interview this morning when presidential hopeful Sen Hillary Clinton said our state of the union is “troubled, anxious and insecure.”

Our leaders are not only the problem solvers, they are our voice of confidence and our legacy of triumph in troubled times. So as we often hear in speeches like tonight – the stakes for America could not be higher.

President Ronald Reagan never faced a Republican-controlled Congress. For him, it was always the night of the long knives. Yet somehow, we never ceased being that “shining city on a hill.”

Thus I am reminded of the first time President Reagan faced that daunting challenge – his first State of the Union in 1982.

Let it be said of us that we, too, did not fail; that we, too, worked together to bring America through difficult times. Let us conduct ourselves that two centuries from now, another Congress and another President, meeting in this chamber as we’re meeting, will speak of us with pride, saying we met the test and preserved for them in their day the sacred flame of liberty this last, best hope of man on Earth.

Good Luck, Mr. President. The world will be listening.