But he very nearly finished the speech before adding that the state of the union is "strong."
Maybe because that has yet to really be determined.
The next year - or even the next few days - should be very telling in that regard.
President Bush only briefly cited the taken-for-granted robust health of the economy, saving that topic for a speech next week. Good. It deserves its own spotlight.
He exhorted Congress to adopt several absolutely crucial federal budget reforms - which we'll take up in another editorial Sunday.
We also applaud his emphasis on energy conservation and diversification. We hope he follows through, and that Congress does, too.
But most importantly, the president crafted a vast, reasoned and compelling argument about the urgency of fighting the war on terror and about the vile, inconsolable nature of our enemy - particulars that no opponent of the war has yet to refute.
He described both the violence emanating from Sunni and Shiite Muslim extremists, and the method in their madness:
"By killing and terrorizing Americans, they want to force our country to retreat from the world and abandon the cause of liberty. They would then be free to impose their will and spread their totalitarian ideology.
"What every terrorist fears most is human freedom - societies where men and women make their own choices, answer to their own conscience and live by their hopes instead of their resentments.
"The great question of our day is whether America will help men and women in the Middle East to build free societies and share in the rights of all humanity. And I say, for the sake of our own security, we must."
Another great question is whether the Democratic Congress will give the commander and chief one last chance to do that. No-confidence resolutions are on the agenda on Capitol Hill - and, in fact, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved one Wednesday, just hours after the president's speech.
We don't know if a troop surge will get us over the hump, but the president eloquently reached out to Congress and made a compelling case Tuesday night not to give up now.
"The evil that inspired and rejoiced in 9-11 is still at work in the world. And so long as that is the case, America is still a nation at war.
"It would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned and our own security at risk.
"Ladies and gentlemen, on this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. So let us find our resolve, and turn events toward victory."
Now, where did we leave that?
And just what is the state of the union?