Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Bush Comes Out Swinging
Last year, our economy grew at a health 3.5 percent. Over the past two and a half years, the economy has added nearly 5 million new jobs. That's more than Japan and the 25 nations of the European Union combined. The national unemployment rate is 4.8 percent. That's lower than the average rate of the 1970s and the 1980s and the 1990s.
I know it came as a surprise to some of you that I would stand up in front of the Congress and say, We've got a problem; we're addicted to oil. But it is a problem. And I look forward to working with both Republicans and Democrats to advance an agenda that will make us less dependent on foreign oil, an agenda that includes hybrid cars and advanced ethanol fuels and hydrogen cells.
You said, How do I react to a bombing that took place yesterday? It's precisely what the enemy understands is possible to do. I'm not suggesting you shouldn't talk about it. I'm certainly not being -- please don't take that as criticism. But it also is a realistic assessment of the enemy's capability to affect the debate, and they know that. They're capable of blowing up innocent life so it ends up on your TV show.
War creates trauma, particularly when you're fighting an enemy that doesn't fight soldier to soldier. They fight by using IEDs to kill innocent people. That's what they use. That's the tool they use. And it creates a sense of concern amongst our people. And that makes sense. And I know that, and one of the reasons why it's important for me to continue to speak out and explain why we have a strategy for victory, why we can succeed.
And I'm going to say it again: If I didn't believe we could succeed, I wouldn't be here. I wouldn't put those kids there. I meet with too many families who's lost a loved one to not be able to look them in the eye and say, we're doing the right thing, and we are doing a right thing.
A democracy in Iraq is going to affect the neighborhood. A democracy in Iraq is going to inspire reformers in a part of the world that is desperate for reformation.
Our foreign policy up until now was to, kind of, tolerate what appeared to be calm, and underneath the surface was this swelling sense of anxiety and resentment, out of which came this totalitarian movement that is willing to spread its propaganda through death and destruction, to spread its philosophy.
Now, some in this country don't - I can understand it - don't view the enemy that way. I guess they, kind of, view it as an isolated group of people that occasionally kill. I just don't see it that way. I see them bound by a philosophy with plans and tactics to impose their will on other countries. The enemy has said that it's just a matter of time before the United States loses its nerve and withdraws from Iraq. That's what they have said. And their objective for driving us out of Iraq is to have a place from which to launch their campaign to overthrow moderate governments in the Middle East, as well as to continue attacking places like the United States. Now, maybe some discount those words as, kind of, meaningless propaganda.
BUSH: I don't. I take them really seriously.
Bush is not an eloquent man, but when he speaks he seems to speak with sincerity, and he is unquestionably sincere when discussing Social Security:
Well, in the spirit of honest debate, let me say that I disagree with quite a bit of Bush's doings. But I have never felt that he is a double dealer. I think he is a great president. He is an honest person with considerable vision at a time when most of politics is all about spin and not about the people.
Social Security is a really difficult issue for some members of Congress to deal with, because it is fraught with all kind of political peril.
BUSH: As a matter of fact, it's been difficult for a lot of Congresses to deal with. You know, the one time in recent memory that it was dealt with was when there was a near crisis; in other words, when the system was about to, like, fall into the abyss. And people came together and solved it. Well, they thought it was a fairly long-term fix. It turned out to be a lot shorter fix than they thought. So I'm disappointed Congress didn't want to go forward with it, but I'm not surprised. Therefore, I've tried a new tactic. Last year, the tactic was to believe that once the people saw there was a problem, they would then demand a solution. And we made progress on describing the problem. I think the American people now are beginning to get the picture; that if we don't do something, Social Security and Medicare will go bust. If we don't do something, future Congresses, not this Congress, but future Congresses are going to be confronted with some serious decisions about raising taxes
enormously or cutting benefits drastically or other programs drastically.
BUSH: And so that issue sunk in. It's just that there wasn't that connection with action inside the body of the respective chambers, although there were some noble efforts made by some members of Congress to get something started. And so the new tactics to get people involved in this process is to try to take the politics out of it and bring members of both parties in both chambers together. There's quiet consultations going on to get this commission, committee, together of members that could get something put in place that would have a bipartisan appeal to it. Bipartisanship is hard to achieve in Washington these days. I readily concede that.
I'm not deterred by the fact that nothing happened. As a matter of fact, I take great pride in the fact that i was wiling to bring up the issue whole others might not have. That's the job of the president. The job of the president is not to worry about the short-term attitudes. The job of the president is to confront big issues and to bring them to the front and to say to people: Let's work together to get it solved.
QUESTION: What, sir, do you think the impact of a discussion of impeachment and censure does to you and this office and to the nation during a time of war and in the context of the election?
BUSH: I think during these difficult times -- and they are difficult when we are at war -- the American people expect there to be an honest and open debate without needless partisanship. And that's how I view it. I did notice that nobody from the Democratic Party has actually stood up and called for the getting rid of the terrorist surveillance program. You know, if that's what they believe, if people in the party believe that, then they ought to stand up and say it. They ought to stand up and say, The tools we're using to protect the American people shouldn't be used. They ought to take their message to the people and say, Vote for me. I promise we're not going to have a terrorist surveillance program. That's what they ought to be doing. That's part of what is an open and honest debate.
I guess we have to consider the 2004 election a referendum.
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