We’re going to press just as President Bush is starting his State of the Union address. We hope he said the United States should be a world leader. Or even THE world leader, if that means we want to be the model for others. Maybe he said something like:

My fellow Americans. Leadership in a dangerous world can mean doing the hard things others won’t do until you show them the way. Tonight, I want to talk about three tough jobs that lie ahead: in Iraq, around the world and here at home.

The first is disarming Iraq. Our military might is such that we can crush what remains of the Iraqi armed forces and destroy all of Saddam Hussein’s palaces and hiding places. We can install a friendly Iraqi government and take charge of the oil fields. That would be easy, except that thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens would have to die. And we’d be seen all over the world as a bully to be feared, not a peacemaker to be followed.

The hard way is to let the inspections process work while we build an international consensus for Saddam Hussein’s removal from power. Fortunately, time is on our side, because the initial inspections indicate that nothing of Iraq’s old nuclear weapons program survives today. We can steadily build up our inspections teams, root out the Bathist Party’s human rights abuses as well as any chemical and biological weapons programs it’s undertaken, and–with United Nations approval–help the people of Iraq find their voice, and their freedom.

Around the world, AIDS is a plague that threatens to cripple Africa, and it is just one of many health crises the less-developed nations of Africa, Asia, Europe and South America face. The United States must be THE leader in making universal health care the world’s great cause in the 21st century. Fortunately, if the high-wealth nations can work together to lessen international tensions and halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons, we’ll have the resources needed to make long, healthy lives the norm for everyone on the planet.

Let’s get started here at home, by guaranteeing decent and affordable health care to every American. And let’s lead in the United Nations to help make the latest retroviral drugs available throughout Africa–and pay our fair share of the cost.

Finally, let’s prove to the world that we are not a greedy nation out to suck up all the oil in Iraq and the Middle East. I’m proposing tonight–and I got this idea from my friend Arianna Huffington–that we raise our fuel-efficiency standard for new American cars and trucks to 40 miles per gallon.

Yes, SUVs too.

When we do, we’ll have $45 billion more every year to help seniors with prescription drug costs, improve educational opportunities for our kids and expand social services for those in need.

So we won’t need any tax cuts.

Goodnight, and God Bless America.