President Bush will deliver his first State of the Union address tonight while riding one of the biggest waves of popular approval ever attained by an American head of state and a top adviser hinted that he will now try to spend some of this newfound political capital to push his domestic agenda forward.

Bush”s three goals, White House officials said, are defeating terrorism, reviving the economy and protecting American soil. The president will advocate longer unemployment benefits for the newly jobless, more tax cuts, prescription-drug coverage for Medicare patients, as well as an industry-friendly energy policy and new limits on lawsuit damages.

“We want to be a strong and vibrant country, full of opportunity for all our citizens, while we also want to end this threat to our freedom,” said Counselor to the President Karen Hughes. “The president will set out three great goals, and we expect that we can succeed at all of them.”

Political science Prof. Ken Kollman compared Bush”s situation with that of a head of a successful corporation.

“A lot of investors like what you”re doing and you have a couple of projects you want to float and the investors say, “Sure,”” he said. “It”s very typical for presidents, in times when their approval ratings are high, to take a little more risk and try to promote spending items or projects that they wouldn”t otherwise do.”

But many portions of Bush”s agenda face a divided Congress with the Republican-controlled House seemingly eager to move much of his agenda along and the more reluctant Democratic-controlled Senate. The president, Kollman said, may try to use his bully pulpit to nudge the Senate along, therefore making Bush”s opponents “more afraid to take him on.”

Prof. Ronald Inglehart, who teaches comparative politics in the political science department, said he expects Bush to focus a good portion of his address on the slowing economy, wishing to avoid the fate of his father, whose popularity surged into the 90s following victory in the Gulf War but dropped below 45 percent as the economic recession continued.

The first President George Bush, he noted, “won a war and got kicked out.”

But Inglehart also warned that, although the president virtually wiped out support for Osama bin Laden noting that t-shirts bearing the al Qaida leader”s face were sold on the streets in some countries where they have now virtually disappeared he has yet to address the reasons why America is not exactly seen as the “leader of the free world.”

“It”s quite clear there”s a long term problem of our relations with Islamic countries,” he said. “The U.S. is seen, quite correctly I think, as not taking their sensibilities into account.”

Inglehart said he expects the president to focus much of his speech on the military, but added it would be interesting if Bush touched on the perception of America in other countries.

Political science Prof. J. David Singer, who said he was cynical of the administration”s handling of foreign affairs, argued that the president shouldn”t be allowed to “get away with murder.”

“We shouldn”t let him call it defense spending. We should call it corporate welfare,” he said. “We”re going to be buying a lot of new weapons that are relatively irrelevant to national security needs a form of political payback for the tremendous support his campaign had from the so-called “defense industries.””

In a hint of tonight”s speech, a top administration official said Bush will announce a program to “preserve and extend the great good that we”ve seen come out of the evil of September 11, and extend values like this throughout America and throughout the world.”

Although one high-profile persona, Hamid Karzai, chairman of Afghanistan”s interim government, plans to attend the address at the Capitol, it remains unclear whether another top official will sit in the House chamber tonight. Vice President Dick Cheney, who, citing security reasons, sat out the president”s address to Congress the week after the Sept. 11 attacks, has not stated whether he will take his chair as the Senate”s presiding officer.

The president”s address will be broadcast at 9 p.m. on all the major networks.

The Washington Post contributed to this report.

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