Friday, September 21, 2007

Bush makes the conservative case

President George W. Bush would be the first to admit that he's not The Great Communicator, a fact that has hurt his presidency and support for his policies at home and abroad. But every now and then, he gets his game on.

At yesterday's press conference, the President was large and in charge. He was relaxed and interjected humor and personal asides to the press. More significantly, he articulated several conservative principles, forcefully and unapologetically:

S-CHIP: "Democratic leaders in Congress want to put more power in the hands of government by expanding federal health care programs. Their S-CHIP plan is an incremental step toward the goal of government-run health care for every American.

"I have a different view. I believe the best approach is to put more power in the hands of individuals by empowering people and their doctors to make health care decisions that are right for them. Instead of expanding S-CHIP beyond its original purpose, we should return it to its original focus, and that is helping poor children, those who are most in need. And instead of encouraging people to drop private coverage in favor of government plans, we should work to make basic private health insurance affordable and accessible for all Americans.

"Their [the Democrat] vision is, expand the eligibility so that people making up to $80,000 will be eligible for this program. I believe this is a step toward federalization of health care. I know that their proposal is beyond the scope of the program, and that's why I'm going to veto the bill.

Taxes: "I believe the worst thing that can happen now is to allow the Congress to do that which they have said they want to do, which is to raise the taxes on people, and — because I think taking money out of the hands of investors and consumers and small business owners would weaken the economy.

"And so, as I say, I'm optimistic, but I would be pessimistic if I thought Congress was going to get their way. And they're not. They're not going to raise taxes."

Iran and Israel: "We're also talking to different finance ministers about how we can send a message to the Iranian government that the free world is not going to tolerate the development of know-how in how to build a [nuclear] weapon, or at least gain the ability to make a weapon.

"And the reason why is, is because it's very important for us to take the threats coming out of the mouth of the President of Iran very seriously. He's a person that … constantly talks about the use of force … on Israel, for example, and Israel is our very firm and strong ally."

Race relations and the Republican party: "My advice to whoever will be our [presidential] nominee is to reach out to the African American community, as well as other communities, because I believe that we've got a very strong record when it comes to empowerment, when it comes to education, or home ownership, or small business formation.

The economy: "The deficit, as a percent of GDP, is low. It's lower than the 30-year average. We have submitted a plan to balance the budget. We dealt with a recession, a terrorist attack and corporate scandals. And we did it by cutting taxes. The tax cuts worked. The economy recovered. People are working. Interest rates are low.

"I'm a supply-sider. I believe supply-side economics, when properly instituted, enables us to achieve certain objectives. One, people find work and there's hope in the economy. Two, that supply-side economics yields additional tax revenues. And if we're smart about how we manage the fiscal budget, it leads to balance, and that's what we have done. …We've submitted a plan that will enable this budget to become balanced by 2012, so long as Congress learns to set priorities. And we can balance the budget without raising taxes."

Entitlements: "I'm not going to give up on entitlement reform. They require … members of both parties to recognize we have a problem that ought to be solved now. …I thought it was time to come together a couple years ago, and that wasn't the political will in Congress. And I'm not so sure we're going to find it now, but I'm going to keep trying because, like the [former Federal Reserve] Chairman [Alan Greenspan], I understand that the biggest issue we've got with the deficit are those deficits inherent in these entitlement programs."

America's role in the world: "You'll find isolationists are those who say it's not our business what happens overseas; it doesn't matter if there's a free society in the heart of the Middle East, as far as our long-term security and peace. I just strongly reject that. I think it does matter a lot that the United States is working with other nations to promote liberty and freedom. I believe liberty is a change agent. Liberty can help hostile parts of the world become peaceful parts of the world.

Liberal hate speech:
Q: What is your reaction to the ad that mocked General Petraeus as General "Betrayus," and said that he cooked the books on Iraq? And secondly, would you like to see Democrats, including presidential candidates, repudiate that ad?

THE PRESIDENT: I thought the ad was disgusting. I felt like the ad was an attack not only on General Petraeus, but on the U.S. military. And I was disappointed that not more leaders in the Democrat Party spoke out strongly against that kind of ad. And that leads me to come to this conclusion: that most Democrats are afraid of irritating a left-wing group like — or more afraid of irritating them than they are of irritating the United States military. That was a sorry deal. It's one thing to attack me; it's another thing to attack somebody like General Petraeus.

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